Mask mandates lifted for K-12 schools

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School systems can begin implementing their own policies following the end of the 2020-21 school year. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced May 25 he is ending the statewide mask mandate for Louisiana schools. Louisiana State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley met with Edwards last week to request the mask mandate be lifted for K-12 students. New school system face mask policies will take effect starting with summer programs.

“After a statewide effort that served its purpose, I applaud Governor Edwards for now returning this decision to our local communities,” Brumley said. “I know school system leaders will continue to work with parish medical experts as they navigate what we all hope is the final chapter of this pandemic.”

Following months of improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and with nearly three million vaccine doses administered, Edwards signed an updated public health emergency order that removes all remaining business capacity restrictions and the vast majority of masking requirements.

Federal mandates state that masks continue to be required in healthcare settings, public transportations, jails and prisons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that it was safe for vaccinated people to not wear masks in most settings.

This week, Louisiana hit its lowest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the very early days of the pandemic, although multiple northwest parishes, including Natchitoches, have increased positivity in COVID-19 cases. Natchitoches Parish has had 4,100 total cases and 91 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Since March 2020, Edwards has issued public health emergency orders that allowed the state to respond to the COVID-19 threat, support local governments and slow the spread of COVID-19.

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. Local governments and businesses may choose to have stronger restrictions than the state and Edwards encourages residents to respect all local or business mandates. Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health, the CDC and 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.

LSU Health Shreveport will offer COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccinations in Natchitoches Thursday, May 27 from 6-9 a.m., at the Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging.