Governor John Bel Edwards recommends wearing masks indoors in Louisiana to stem COVID outbreak | Coronavirus



With the growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has recommended that Louisians return to wearing masks indoors to help slow the spread of the deadly virus.

Louisiana has the highest growth rate of COVID cases per capita in the country, with the statewide average of daily cases per 100,000 population increasing 208% in the past two weeks, said Edwards.

The Louisiana Department of Health suggests – without requiring – that people wear their masks indoors when at least six feet away is not physically possible. Department officials are also asking that all people who have been exposed to COVID through colleagues, family members, etc., be tested, whether or not they have been vaccinated.

For weeks, Louisiana public health experts, epidemiologists and prominent political leaders have warned with growing urgency that the state …

People entering public buildings under Edwards’ control, which are for the most part, will be required to wear masks from Monday. He also recommends that companies send their employees home to work remotely whenever possible.

The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Louisiana rose to 1,008 as of Friday afternoon, increasing at its fastest rate since the early days of the pandemic. The vast majority of those patients – 90% – are not vaccinated, said public health official Dr Joe Kanter.

Nine more Louisianans with COVID-19 have died overnight, bringing the death toll from confirmed cases to 9,842 since the start of the pandemic. Of the 59 deaths reported in the past seven days, 91% were unvaccinated, Kanter said.

Latest increase in cases is fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, a strain of COVID-19 that first appeared in India and now accounts for at least 83% of cases nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

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The viral load caused by the delta variant is up to 1,000 times that of the original strain of COVID-19, which facilitates transmission and causes more severe cases in younger patients, Kanter said.

Cases of the virus are increasing across the country, but the outbreak has been particularly severe in Louisiana, where nearly two-thirds of the population is still unvaccinated. The White House recently called Louisiana a “state of concern” given the speed with which the virus is spreading.

Edwards pleaded with the public to take the vaccine, which is free and available at nearly 1,400 sites statewide. Already, there is a silver lining: The number of people choosing to be vaccinated has recently increased from around 2,000 to 5,000 a day, Edwards said.

“It pains me to say this, but this push is against us. How bad does it get, how long does it stay bad, how many people ultimately die – on us,” said Edwards. “We can do better. It’s entirely in our control.”

State agency executives spent much of Friday briefing employees “the mask mandate is back” as well as telecommuting. The Office of Technology Services, for example, will require its employees to come to the office for at least two days, masked, but otherwise to work remotely from home.

State government agencies had been working from home during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Those restrictions relaxed as the pandemic did.

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