BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is dropping any remaining state masking requirements, including for schoolchildren, when he renews the COVID-19 public health emergency order Wednesday.
Edwards said a deep drop in hospitalizations in the waning omicron variant surge prompted his decision.
“There won’t be any mention of masks” in the new order, the governor said during a press conference Monday.
COVID hospitalizations have been cut in half since omicron’s peak in middle January. On Monday the Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,135 hospitalizations.
“We’re definitely on the downswing of the omicron surge,” Edwards said.
But the governor said the number of deaths reported daily — 41 on Monday — continue to be a “gut punch.”
“When you’re coming off a surge the last number to respond is deaths,” he said.
Edwards said he is aware more governors have already or are considering lifting their public health emergency orders completely.
“I decided not to do that because we still have 1,135 people in the hospital … as variants change it’s more important to focus on hospitalizations than cases,” Edwards said. “Before I lift the order, which may be on or before March 16, I want to make sure there aren’t adverse circumstances in doing so.”
Throughout the pandemic, officials across the United States have rolled out a patchwork of restrictions on social distancing, masking and other aspects of public life.
The orders vary by state, county and even city. At the height of restrictions in late March and early April 2020, more than 310 million Americans were under directives ranging from “shelter in place” to “stay at home.”
Restrictions are now ramping down in many places, as most states have fully reopened their economies.