Governor says state is ‘asking’ individuals to wear masks, not ‘telling’; doesn’t expect fines or arrests

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Gov. John Bel Edwards
David Gray | The News

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their guidelines regarding masks in public, amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, suggesting that individuals should wear masks in public.

Recently, Gov. John Bel Edwards has begun making those suggestions public at his press conferences.

However, the judiciary in Harris County, Texas (Houston) announced that they will impose fines for those who are caught in public not wearing masks. Although that has caused some strife between the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff, and the judiciary, it’s also caused concern among residents around the country, and in Louisiana, that eventually this will be a requirement.

Some have already accused the governor on social media of “telling them they must wear a mask” in public.

The governor said Thursday he doesn’t expect for it to go that far.

“I’m just asking for you to be a good neighbor,” the governor said, “and we’re not asking for individuals to find and wear an N95 mask, but a suitable face covering – there are instructions online on how to make these at home.

“I don’t expect to impose fines or arrests for not wearing a mask in public.”

According to the CDC, wearing a mask in public helps protect you from others and others from you, reducing the spread. If two people within social distancing of each other are both wearing masks, the chances of transferring COVID-19 are “drastically reduced” according to CDC guidelines.

Despite some anecdotal evidence that individuals are becoming more lax with social distancing and returning to work earlier than the stay at home order deadline, the governor still believes the state is moving in the right direction with regard to COVID-19 numbers.

On Thursday, the Department of Health reported 1,727 hospitalizations from COVID-19, a drop of 20 from the previous day, and 274 patients on ventilators, a decrease of 13 in the last 24 hours.

The statewide death toll from the coronavirus reached 1,540, with 59 probable deaths. Fifty-two of the state’s 64 parishes are reporting at least one COVID-19 related death, according to the Department of Health.

Across the state, there are now 25,739 reported cases of the novel coronavirus, an increase of 481 from the previous day.

The state is now reporting 141,858 completed tests, either through the state lab or commercial labs, which are reporting the vast majority of tests (95 percent).

This week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana’s COVID-19 dashboard provided by the Department of Health continues to show the Bayou State trending in the right direction for an economic reopening on or around May 1.

That will begin with expanded healthcare offerings for anything deemed “time sensitive” and “essential” such as surgeries, screenings, and dealing with infection.

However, the governor has asked that Louisiana residents “manage their expectations” as the economy begins to reopen. The governor said that the state’s internal modeling shows that the Bayou State is trending in the right direction, per federal guidelines, to begin reopening. His current stay-at-home order runs through April 30. 

While the reports of newer cases have fluctuated over the past week, re-opening the economy depends on an “overall trend.”

Per President Donald Trump’s guidelines, as issued by the federal task force and explained by Dr. Deborah Birx, benchmarks must be met by states with regard to COVID-19 and it’s spread be

The governor gave a rough sketch of what will be a 14-day window:

  • 14 days of fewer people reporting symptoms
  • 14 days of actual cases trending downward in the state
  • 14 days of hospitalization decrease

“You have to be on a positive trend for at least 14 days, and they have to be the same 14 days for all metrics – this isn’t over, say, a 42-day period,” the governor explained. He went on to say that, although the state had an increase of new cases from Sunday to Monday, as long as the trend over those 14 days remains on a downward trajectory – Louisiana should be “OK.”

But, the governor warned, that trend had to continue as the state barrels toward the month of May. The governor reminded citizens of social distancing measures, mitigation efforts, and the ‘Stay at Home’ order that is in place until the end of April.

  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Disinfect common surfaces at home and work
  • 10 or less at any public gathering, preferably no gatherings at all
  • Stay six feet away from others in public places
  • Control cough and sneezing with elbow or tissue
  • Stay home if sick and utilize telehealth to contact your doctor
  • Stay home unless visiting doctor, pharmacy, or grocery store

Edwards said that the efforts he has made in the Bayou State are not political, but follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and the federal government. According to the governor, he has had consistent contact with both President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence – both of whom have supported the state’s response to the virus.

McHugh David | The News

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