Governor requires masks in most state buildings, extends emergency order

Staff Report
Gov. John Bel Edwards adjusts his mask during a visit to St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas on Oct. 5.

Gov. John Bel Edwards extended Louisiana’s Public Health Emergency order related to COVID-19, including a provision allowing all state government agencies to require mask wearing.

In a Dec. 21 new release, Edwards cited the fast-spreading Omicron variant, which is now the dominant strain in the United States and Louisiana according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State agencies in the Governor’s Cabinet will begin requiring masks of employees and visitors.

“While vaccines and booster doses are the strongest tools we have in the fight against COVID, public health experts also agree that masks are an important way to slow the spread of the Omicron variant now. This means you should be masking indoors around people who aren’t in your household,” Gov. Edwards stated. “While it is concerning to still see rising cases, as President Joe Biden noted earlier today – we have come a long way since March 2020. Around 50 percent of Louisianans have already been vaccinated and are much more protected against COVID than they have ever been. The more than 460,000 Louisianans who have already taken a booster dose have even stronger protection.

While many people are vaccinated, only around a quarter of eligible Louisianans have their booster doses. A Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increases antibody levels 25-fold against Omicron. Similarly, early data show a Moderna booster shot can increase antibody levels 37-fold against Omicron. 

In addition to the Governor’s public health order, the Louisiana Department of Health on Monday issued revised recommendations and guidance for Louisianans during the holiday season, particularly if they are traveling. These include getting vaccines and boosters, masking indoors around people who aren’t in your household and getting tested regularly. In addition, any person who has COVID symptoms should get tested and stay in quarantine to avoid spreading illness to others.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. People with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and get tested.

There are COVID-19 test sites throughout Louisiana. Visit ldh.la.gov/covidtesting or call 211 to find a test site near you. As a reminder, all community-based sites operated by the Louisiana National Guard will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.