BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards is ending most remaining coronavirus restrictions and lifting a statewide requirement that students must wear a mask in the classroom and at school events. Masks still will be required on public transit, in health care facilities, and in prisons.

The mask mandate for educational settings ends at the end of the academic year, and each school district will set its own guidelines for summer programs. Businesses will continue to set their own guidelines as well.

  • Click here to read the Governor’s public health emergency order, which will be in place for 30 days and will be extended as long as Louisiana is actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Click here to see slides from today’s media briefing.

The current public health emergency order went into effect on April 28 and included a loosening of the statewide mask mandate. However, masks remained mandatory for K-12 schools, colleges and universities, public transit, health care facilities, and many government buildings.

“There’s no doubt that we are in a better place today than we’ve been at any point during the pandemic,” Edwards said during a briefing Tuesday afternoon. Still, he continues to encourage mask-wearing and vaccinations and said he is keeping the public emergency in place.

“We don’t yet have the percentage of people vaccinated in Louisiana we need to have to feel that degree of confidence,” Edwards said.

Louisiana’s vaccination rate stood at 30.5%% as of Monday, with just over 1.4 million of the state’s population having completed a vaccine series. It is one of nine states where less than half the adult population has received at least one shot, according to the latest data from the CDC.

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.

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.

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.

Statement from the Office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards

Edwards expects to implement vaccine incentives

Gov. Edwards Tuesday said he expects some form of incentives will be implemented in the state “pretty soon,” noting that the governors of Ohio and Maine were featured on a White House coronavirus call to talk about the incentives rolled out in their states that have been successful in bringing up vaccination rates.

The governor said the state had just received clarification Tuesday that certain portions of the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay for certain vaccine incentives as well, so state leaders are just starting to look at what can be done.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine rolled out a “Vax-a-Million” lottery incentive program offering five shots at $1M for adults who have been vaccinated and five four-year scholarships for kids aged 12 to 17 who get vaccinated.

Maine has rolled out out free fishing licenses, baseball tickets and L.L. Bean gift cards to encourage more residents to get vaccinated before the end of the month as part of a public-private program, “Your Shot To Get Outdoors.”

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice is offering $100 saving bonds to residents ages 16 to 35 who get or have gotten the shot

Louisiana COVID-19 hospitalizations at all-time low

Louisiana is at an all-time low in hospitalized COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with only 269 COVID hospitalizations as of Tuesday.

The last time hospitalizations were this low was in March 2020, just two weeks after the first case was reported in the state. Hospitalizations rose sharply in the following three weeks, peaking at 1,991 on April 12.

Hospitalizations would spike again two more times over the following months, reaching an all-time high on Jan. 7, 2021 and never dipping below the 500-mark until March 11, 2021. That was one week after Edwards moved the state to Phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions and three months after the first vaccines arrived in Louisiana.

The LDH also reported 1,043 new cases statewide Tuesday, for a total of 469,445, and 13 new deaths. That brings the total deaths from the coronavirus in the state to 10,548.

Third case of India COVID-19 variant confirmed in Louisiana

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said Tuesday that a third case of the Indian COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in Louisiana. The first two cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India were identified in the greater Shreveport area last week. Kanter said the third was found in the greater Alexandria area.

The state’s top public health officer said none of the three cases are linked, are not relatives of each other, and none of them have traveled out of the state, which means in all likelihood, they were exposed in Louisiana and contracted the mutated strain here.

The incidence of the that B.1.1.7, sometimes called “the U.K. variant,” remains dominant in Louisiana, as is the case in the rest of the United States, as well.

Kanter also said 13 cases of the Brazil P.1 variant have been identified in Louisiana, but that there are “almost certainly” more cases than that in the state that have not been confirmed.