LIVINGSTON, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – According to social media, there’s a large divide between those who believe in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ mask proclamation, requiring face protection in all public places beginning Monday, July 13, and those who think it is an overstep of powers.
And, while Parish President Layton Ricks has expressed his own displeasure with the new mask mandate and said he’d prefer not to enforce it strictly, the parish will follow COVID-19 guidelines including masks and social distancing at their offices.
As will local law enforcement.
Representatives from the Denham Springs Police Department, Walker Police Department, and Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office stated Monday morning that they will continue to follow COVID-19 social distancing measures and wearing masks in public, where appropriate.
But they will also respond to calls from local businesses asking for assistance to remove those who will not wear masks and who are asked by those businesses to not come in, or leave. Gov. Edwards’ most recent proclamation covers this as an ‘Entering or Remaining Forbidden.’
While overall enforcement of the mask rules will fall on individual businesses, which will be monitored by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and the State Fire Marshal, businesses can request active enforcement in the moment from local law enforcement to remove an individual from the premises who refuses to wear a mask.
All three establishments said they would handle each call individually, and there is no overall mandate for response. Each department also included that they would rather not issue citations, if the situation can be de-escalated.
“Our preference will be to resolve the matter without the need for enforcement action,” said Capt. John Sharp, Walker Police. “However, if enforcement action is required, our ability to act is referenced in the Governor’s proclamation as the enforcement of trespass laws.”
“We are only acting on complaints received directly from business owners or employees,” Denham Springs Police Chief Shannon Womack added, “As of now, our instruction from the Governor’s order is to enforce only that mandate.”
Any calls made to law enforcement that suggest businesses are not enforcing the mask mandate will be directed to GOHSEP or the State Fire Marshal’s office.
Confusion erupted earlier in the day when Parish President Layton Ricks said he did not support strict enforcement of a mask requirement or mandate. Many people in the public eye took this to mean that the parish would not be enforcing any restrictions.
While being mindful of the strong opinions on both sides of this issue, Ricks said Livingston Parish is bound by Edwards’ order and he has instructed his department heads to follow the guidelines established for governmental offices.
Despite the rapid rise in new cases in his parish, Ricks said he does not plan to endorse strict citations against residents who oppose the governor’s order for face coverings in all public settings, though he would like the public to “be mindful.”
Ricks also said he has received emails and messages from constituents asking him to opt out of the governor’s order.
“Unfortunately, (opting out) is not an option for Livingston Parish,” Ricks said in his statement.
Sheriff Ard agreed with Ricks regarding wishing that the circumstances were different, however the sheriff did encourage Livingston Parish citizens to continue to follow recommended safety guidelines in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“At the LPSO, we will continue to work with our local leaders and businesses to address any and all concerns moving forward,” Ard said.
McHugh David | The News