By Melinda Deslatte | The Associated Press
Baton Rouge, La. – Louisiana reinstated a masking mandate in all indoor venues, including schools and colleges, on Monday, as the state grapples with a rapidly growing fourth surge of COVID-19 driven by the Delta version and one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates . rates.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the mandate, which went into effect on Wednesday, less than three months after he removed the previous face covering requirement amid hopes that the virus was ending. The mandate will apply to anyone 5 years of age and older – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – who enters a business, school, church or other indoor location. It will also cover any kindergartener if they are under the age of 5.
The mask requirement was especially urgent for Edwards as students begin returning to some K-12 schools this week. Louisiana education leaders refused to enforce any masking orders in all districts, leaving it to individual school systems to determine their plans. District-by-district talks will end with the executive order of the Governor.
Edwards’ order will last until September 1, but could be extended beyond that.
Louisiana reported 11,109 new cases since Friday, with 27 more deaths. The number of hospitalizations rose to 1,984 a month ago, which is seven times the number of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020 surpassed 11,000 in Monday’s latest figures.
The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, although the number of people who received at least one dose rose by more than 46,000 between Thursday and Monday, to nearly 43%. More than 1.72 million, or just under 37%, are fully vaccinated.
The governor announced the mask mandate at a briefing surrounded by hospital and business leaders who supported the decision. It came as one of Louisiana’s largest hospitals — Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge — brought in a disaster medical support team of about three dozen health care workers Monday to help the facility recover from COVID-19. To help deal with the influx of -19 patients.
“We are basically a response organization, and when the resources of state and local facilities are stressed as a health care response, we can come in and backfill a hospital,” said Mississippi resident Stephanie Flood. Thomas and a spokesman for the disaster said. Medical Support Team.
The hospital said it is currently taking care of 155 COVID-19 patients, of whom a third are in intensive care. Our Lady of the Lake and several other medical facilities around Louisiana have delayed elective surgeries that require procedures such as inpatient beds and cancer treatments because of a coronavirus spike.
Thomas said she recently returned from work at a Texas hospital where lab techs, nurses, respiratory therapists and many other areas of care were needed.
“It’s the whole hospital,” she said. “It’s not just a bunch of people who are getting sick. It’s the front desk that are getting sick. There are also some people who are afraid to come to work. Some of the hospitals that we backfilled were afraid that They’re going to take it.”
Also on Monday, officials in Edwards’ office said in a written statement that another member of the governor’s staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff and five others who may have been exposed were isolating at home, he said. Two other employees of the governor’s office tested positive last week.
“The Governor’s office has a high rate of fully vaccinated employees, including these employees who were vaccinated against COVID earlier this year,” the statement said. “While such successful cases do occur, they usually do not lead to serious disease.”
Associated Press journalists Stacy Pleasance in Baton Rouge and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.