Two of the most conservative (and least-vaccinated) states in the U.S. are instituting new mask mandates in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers there and across the nation. Gov. Jon Bel Edwards issued a new mask mandate for Louisiana, effective starting Aug. 4, in response to the latest, delta variant-driven phase of the pandemic.
“It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID,” Edwards told reporters upon signing the new order. “In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this is just another surge. This is the worst one we’ve had thus far.”
As the Advocate reported, all indoor public settings in Louisiana—including schools, businesses, universities, and churches—will require a face mask for entry.
Edwards, a Democratic governor in a conservative state, made the move in large part because of statewide hospitalizations approaching the 2,000 mark, predicting that it would surpass the high-water mark of 2,069 set on Jan. 7. The vast majority of the current hospital patients are unvaccinated.
“I cannot in good conscience sit by while our hospitals lose the capacity to deliver life-saving care to COVID patients and non-COVID patients alike,” Edwards said.
The New York Times noted Edwards’ order for Louisiana was part of a new nationwide trend of implementing a mask mandate. That includes more liberal enclaves like Los Angeles County, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
New York City, though, was holding out against requiring masking, with Mayor Bill de Blasio preferring to focus on increasing vaccinations. He did, however, say, “We want to strongly recommend that people wear masks in indoor settings even if you’re vaccinated.”
In Arkansas, which has also been battling rising COVID-19 case numbers, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has called on the state’s lawmakers to reconvene and consider lifting the statewide ban on mask mandates in public schools.
As U.S. News and World Report noted, the governor wants to amend a state law that prohibits state and local government entities from requiring face masks, looking for local school boards to make policy calls on masking in K-12 schools.
“This is not a debate about mask mandates for those that can make their own decisions and have the means to get vaccinated,” Hutchinson told media at the state Capitol. “This is a discussion about the school environment where schools can make decisions about the public health for their school environment and the children they have a responsibility to protect.”
Hutchinson is also reinstating an emergency declaration he lifted in June, originally issued shortly after the pandemic started in 2020.
Hutchinson isn’t the only person in Arkansas acting to reverse the ban on masks in schools. The Arkansas Times reported that two parents, on behalf of their school-age children as well as themselves, filed a lawsuit against the state to address the state law, seeking an injunction against it and asking for it to be declared unconstitutional.