Gov. Edwards to lift mask requirements for state buildings; addresses hundreds of business leaders

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards told hundreds of west bank business leaders and politicians that he is lifting the mask requirement for most state buildings following the CDC’s guidance that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most situations.

“We’re going to lift those mask mandates in state buildings in order to conform to this newest CDC guidance and again there will be some exceptions, nursing homes, prisons, public transit, K through 12 and that’s because almost none of those kids are vaccinated,” said Edwards.

Edwards said he will sign a new proclamation to reflect that.

Some state legislators in attendance at the luncheon reacted to the governor’s statement.

Rep. Gary Carter is a Democrat, who represents New Orleans in the state legislature.

“I’m comfortable with the progress that we’re making, and I want to make sure we continue to progress and to that end, it’s important that everyone gets vaccinated, and we do our part, so we can return to as best of normal as we possibly can,” said Carter.

Rep. Tim Kerner is a Republican from Lafitte who represents parts of Jefferson Parish.

“I think it’s time. I think he’s making the right decision,” said Kerner.

But the governor says Louisiana will not stop its efforts to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19. He said it pains him to know so many people have not taken advantage of opportunities to get the shot.

“We’re not ordering all the doses the federal government is making available to us because we don’t have people showing up to get the vaccine and that tears at my heart. That is not good for our state,” said Edwards.

The governor says the CDC’s guidance presents challenges.

“There’s a real challenge out there because this guidance is for vaccinated people. You don’t know whether someone’s vaccinated or not and frankly the people who least want to be vaccinated, also least want to wear masks but be that as it may we’re going to ask people to be on their honor system and be good neighbors and do the right thing,” he said.

Edwards says Louisianans are still dying from COVID-19.

“We still had nine people die in the last 24 hours from COVID,” he said.

Also, the governor told the luncheon crowd that he wants to use some of the billions flowing to the state to return the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to solvency after it was depleted because of the pandemic’s negative effect on jobs.

“In February of 2020 we had $1.1 billion in the trust fund, we have zero today and we’ve had to borrow money from the federal government to keep paying our state-mandated benefits,” Edwards stated.

And the governor wants to use some of the federal funds for infrastructure projects.

“Especially water and sewer. We have 50% of our water systems in the state of Louisiana have infrastructure that is more than 50 years old. It’s one of the reasons the winter storm caused us so much problem,” said Edwards.

Kerner and Carter agree.

“You got to replenish the unemployment fund and also infrastructure is very important to the state of Louisiana. You know, in my area and on the west bank a lot of hurricanes, tropical storms, and you need to be able to get the water out and infrastructure I think is important all over the state of Louisiana,” said Kerner.

“I think the governor has a very sound plan and we got to continue to study and work with it and paying down the unemployment debt and investment in infrastructure we certainly approve of that,” said Carter.

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