Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks will not support strict enforcement and penalties against residents that choose not to wear a face mask in all public settings.
Ricks made the announcement in a statement late Monday morning, hours after Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate went into effect.
Edwards’ newest proclamation was made in response to the state’s recent surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Since June 23, the state has reported at least 1,000 new cases a day 13 times — including seven times with at least 1,800 new cases since July 1. The state’s positivity rate (percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive) has also been on the rise, meaning the increase in cases can’t be explained by an increase in tests.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled from where they stood June 13 and are currently at 1,243 statewide, the most since May 12.
In addition to face masks, Edwards’ proclamation closes on-premises consumption at bars — where more than 30 outbreaks have been identified through contact tracing — and limits indoor social gatherings such as wedding receptions, class reunions and parties to 50 total people.
According to Edwards’ mask mandate, people 8 years of age and older will be required to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Though children 2-7 are not required to wear face masks, Edwards said it is “strongly recommended.”
There are a few exceptions to the mask mandate, which are:
-- If someone has a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a mask
-- If someone is talking to a person who is hearing impaired
-- If someone is consuming food or drink
-- If someone is giving a speech for broadcast or before an audience
-- If someone is temporarily removing the face covering for identification purposes
-- If someone is a resident of a parish without a high incidence rate (only applies to Grant, Red River, West Feliciana parishes)
As of Saturday, 61 of the state’s 64 parishes were reporting a high incidence rate (at least 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for the most recent two-week period).
In the most recent two-week period, Livingston Parish’s rate of incidence was 408.41 per 100,000 — higher than Orleans, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany, and Caddo parishes, which have all been the most notable hotspots for the virus in Louisiana since March.
Since June 23, Livingston Parish has confirmed 837 new cases off of 6,084 tests for a 13.7 percent rate of positivity, worse than the state’s goal of 10 percent or lower.
Despite the rapid rise in new cases in his parish, Ricks said he does not plan to endorse strict citations against residents who oppose the governor’s order for face coverings in all public settings, though he would like the public to "be mindful."
Ricks also said he has received emails and messages from constituents asking him to opt out of the governor’s order.
“Unfortunately, this is not an option for Livingston Parish,” Ricks said in his statement.
While being mindful of the strong opinions on both sides of this issue, Ricks said Livingston Parish is bound by Edwards’ order and he has instructed his department heads to follow the guidelines established for governmental offices.
Businesses can be fined if they are found allowing customers or staff in their establishment without wearing masks. If patrons refuse to wear a mask and refuse to leave the business, they can be cited for trespassing.
In his statement, Ricks encouraged residents to protect themselves and their loved ones by taking proper precautions and following public health protocols.
“I believe we should do everything possible to move the state forward in its efforts to flatten the curve and fully reopen,” Ricks said.