In a rare Saturday afternoon press conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced face masks are now mandatory across all of Louisiana for everyone eight years old and older. The only exemptions to this mandate are those with major health concerns. However, the governor noted anyone who has health issues that would prevent a person from wearing a mask probably should not be out in public.

Bars without a food permit will be forced to close for anything other than carry out service in communities where that is allowed. These mandates will stay in place until July 24. This is in response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 across the state. In addition, indoor gatherings such as conferences are now capped at 50 people. This does not include stores or any business that is allowed to operate at 50% under Phase Two guidelines.

While the governor didn't give complete details about the mandate, the overall message was when we are out in public you must wear a mask. At the grocery store, a restaurant, or at any public gathering, both indoors and outdoors. There are certain exceptions where you can remove your mask for identification purposes or for broadcast purposes.

This came just one day after Shreveport's mandatory mask policy was halted by a Caddo District Judge after local businesses challenged the mandate in court. A temporary restraining order was put into place yesterday, stopping enforcement on the mandate until the case can be heard July 20. However, this new statewide mandate puts that case in question.

The governor has been focused on community spread of COVID-19 over the last few weeks. Recent numbers say that 95% of new cases are community spread, which means the positive tests did not occur in a nursing home or hospital setting, but the person was infected in public.

There have been other trends the governor has focused on in recent weeks, iIncluding recent daily test results that have shown a positive test rate of over 10%. Earlier in the pandemic, Louisiana had reduced that positive test rate drastically, so this increase is noteworthy.

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