Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards extends COVID mask mandate. Here's why.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards extended his COVID-19 mask mandate for another month as he acknowledged the state's fourth surge of the infection is finally in retreat.
"There is some good news on COVID front," Edwards said. "We're seeing improvement in the percentage of positivity and hospitalizations.
"I think it bears repeating every (parish) in Louisiana continues to have high level of transmission risk. Our baseline numbers are still far too high."
The mask mandate includes K-12 schools and colleges.
Louisiana Public Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter said 24% of new COVID cases are in children younger than 18.
Booster shots:Pfizer COVID-19 vax boosters now available in Louisiana
COVID-19 in Louisiana:COVID-19 testing up, cases down as hospitalizations halved in three weeks
"Masking is going to be important for schools as long as the risk of community transmission remains elevated," Kanter said, noting there have been seven COVID child deaths during the fourth surge that began last summer.
Kanter also said the latest surge has been particularly dangerous to unvaccinated pregnant mothers.
"Unfortunately we've seen a spike in severe outcomes related to COVID in pregnant women and their unborn children," Kanter said. "It's absolutely devastating — tragic, heartbreaking cases."
Kanter said there have been 14 such fourth surge cases in pregnant mothers resulting in six maternal deaths and 10 fetal deaths. None were vaccinated.
Edwards and Kanter continued to press for vaccines. "They're a game-changer," Katner said.
Louisiana's population is 45% fully vaccinated with just over 50% having at least one dose.
"Our vaccination rate continues to lag where we want it to be," Edwards said. "Quite frankly, it's not good enough.
"We're closing in on 14,000 COVID deaths in Louisiana. The sad part to me is we know many were preventable (with the vaccine)."
COVID hospitalizations did drop below 1,000 this week to 989 Tuesday for the first time since July 22. That's down from an all-time high of 3,022 during the fourth surge.
"We're encouraged the trends going in right direction, but there's still a ton of COVID out there," Kanter said. "COVID is still high in Louisiana and that's why it's important to maintain the current mitigation measures, particularly masking."
Greg Hilburn covers Louisiana politics for the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.