Following months of improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and with nearly three million vaccine doses administered, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday signed an updated public health emergency order that removes all remaining business capacity restrictions and the vast majority of masking requirements. This week, Louisiana hit its lowest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the very early days of the pandemic.
Since March 2020, the Governor has issued public health emergency orders that allowed the state to effectively respond to the COVID-19 threat, support local governments and slow the spread of COVID-19 to protect Louisiana’s ability to deliver healthcare. At the peak of hospitalizations, during the third COVID-19 spike in January 2021, as many as 2,069 people were hospitalized statewide at one time.
“For nearly 15 months, Louisiana has operated under necessary public health restrictions designed to save lives by slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Edwards said. “Thanks to the wide availability of vaccines and the 1.4 million Louisianans who already have gone sleeves up and after hitting a new low in hospitalizations, the order I have signed today contains the fewest state-mandated restrictions ever, though local governments and businesses may still and should feel empowered to take precautions that they see as necessary and prudent, including mandating masks. To be clear: COVID-19 is not over for our state or for our country. Anyone who has gotten the vaccine is now fully protected and can enter summer with confidence. Unfortunately, people who have not yet taken their COVID-19 vaccine remain at risk as more contagious COVID variants continue to spread and as we enter into hurricane season. Because you never know when you may have to leave home and utilize a shelter as the result of bad weather, I encourage all people to take the COVID-19 vaccine as the first step to getting prepared and keeping you and your loved ones safe.”
Masks will be required in educational settings until the end of the current academic semester at which time state and local oversight boards will set their own masking policies. The Louisiana Department of Health will continue to revise guidance and masking recommendations for summer camps, following CDC guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that it was safe for vaccinated people to not wear masks in most settings.
Under order of the State Health Officer, masks continue to be required in healthcare settings, which is a federal mandate. In addition, masks are required on public transportation and in jails and prisons, as per federal guidance.
Local governments and businesses may choose to have stronger restrictions than the state does and the Governor encourages Louisianans to respect all local or business mandates, especially when it comes to masking.
The Governor, the Louisiana Department of Health, the CDC and numerous public health officials recommend that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear a face mask in public and when they are with people outside of their households to reduce their likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
Right now, there are three safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines widely available in nearly 1,500 locations across Louisiana. All Louisianans 18 and older are eligible for any of the approved vaccines. Louisianans between the ages of 12 and 17 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only.
According to the CDC, more than 1.4 million Louisianans are fully vaccinated, around 30.5 percent of the population. The most vaccinated population, by age, is people 65 and older. Nearly 72 percent of people 65 and older in Louisiana are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
To get your questions answered, find a provider or event near you, get your appointment scheduled or speak directly with a medical professional, just call the COVID Vaccine Hotline at 855-453-0774. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.