By LIJ Staff

Louisiana’s indoor mask mandate will be extended for another month, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who credits the requirement with keeping students safe from COVID-19 and aiding in the state’s fourth coronavirus outbreak.

The mask ban was renewed by Louisiana’s Democratic governor in August, as the state suffered its greatest surge in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began, with hospital officials describing a dire set of conditions created by the inflow of COVID-19 patients.

People sick with the Delta variant of the coronavirus filled hospital beds, making it difficult for people seeking treatment and procedures for non-coronavirus ailments.

However, soon after the face-covering requirement was reinstated, COVID-19-related hospitalizations peaked at over 3,000 and then began to decline, dropping below 1,000 this week for the first time since July. Over the previous six weeks, both the number of new infections and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive have decreased significantly.

But even as the current outbreak wanes, the Louisiana Department of Health warned Tuesday that it has detected an uptick in “severe pregnancy outcomes” among unvaccinated women in a state where coronavirus immunization rates fall behind the rest of the country.

Since mid-July, 14 pregnant women have been infected with COVID-19, with six of the women dying and ten of the children dying, according to the CDC.

“Over the delta surge, there have been more COVID-19-related maternal and fetal deaths recorded than the total number of COVID-19 adverse pregnancy outcomes reported in Louisiana during the previous 15 months of the pandemic,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, the state’s leading public health official.

All public indoor facilities, including K-12 schools, colleges, restaurants, bars, gyms, and retail businesses, are subject to Edwards’ latest extension of the mask mandate.

Masks are required for anybody aged 5 and up, as well as kindergartners under the age of 5. The mandate also includes those who have been vaccinated.

Because the governor can only enact such public health emergency rules for a month at a time, he must renew it on a monthly if he wants to continue the mandate.

The latest order is set to expire on October 27.

Edwards stressed the need of maintaining the mask requirement at schools, where many youngsters are too young to be vaccinated and where people are forced into crowded classrooms for hours each day.

Despite the fact that the most recent outbreak has subsided, public health experts in Louisiana warn that there is still a considerable amount of COVID-19 circulating in the population.

However, the state no longer has the largest COVID-19 growth per capita in the US, as it did when Edwards imposed the masking requirement in early August.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana has one of the lowest per capita rates of new cases.

Although Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, immunization rates have increased after the fourth viral outbreak.

More than 45 percent of the state’s 4.6 million residents have received full COVID-19 vaccination, while 51 percent have begun the two-shot process.