Despite improvements, Edwards not lifting virus restrictions

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As Louisiana has made significant strides in combating its second coronavirus surge, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today that he’s keeping the state’s mask mandate, bar closures and other rules aimed at lessening the virus’s spread in place for another two weeks.

The rules were set to expire Friday. But the Democratic governor says he will sign a new proclamation extending the provisions. He made the announcement at a midday news conference largely devoted to the approach of Hurricane Laura.

Edwards lamented that the impending storm meant the suspension of community testing for COVID-19 at a crucial time—as elementary and secondary schools are opening and students are returning to college campuses. 

Also worrying: The storm is forcing evacuations from an area of the state where there has been a high rate of positive tests. 

Louisiana has seen significant declines in new confirmed coronavirus cases and shrinking hospitalization numbers for patients with COVID-19.

But rather than see that as a reason to loosen the restrictions, Edwards says it shows those limitations are working and should be maintained, particularly as more people are interacting and moving around with the reopening of K-12 schools and universities this month.

The regulations limit restaurants to 50% capacity for in-person dining, restrict bars to takeout and delivery only and place occupancy limits on gyms, salons and other businesses deemed nonessential. Face coverings are required for anyone age 8 and older, with medical exceptions. Indoor gatherings above 50 people are banned. 

Critics have panned the governor’s actions as stifling the economy, damaging job recovery and infringing on personal rights. But federal and state judges have upheld Edwards’ mask requirement and other restrictions as within the scope of his constitutional authority, rejecting several efforts to overturn the rules. Read the full story.