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Louisiana COVID-19: Gov. John Bel Edwards says 'mask up' as reopening approaches

The News-Star (Monroe) logoThe News-Star (Monroe) 4/22/2020 Greg Hilburn, Monroe News-Star
John Bel Edwards wearing a uniform and holding a sign: Louisiana Go. John Bel Edwards conducts a press conference on April 22 to brief the public on the coronavirus pandemic. © Courtesy photo Louisiana Go. John Bel Edwards conducts a press conference on April 22 to brief the public on the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking all Louisianians to begin wearing masks or facial coverings as he approaches lifting some stay-at-home restrictions beginning May 1.

As Edwards prepares to reopen the economy in stages, he said it will be necessary for Louisianians to wear masks when out in public to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"I'm calling on Louisiana to mask up," he said. "Think of wearing masks in public as being polite. It's being kind. It's being courteous.

"We really need you wearing masks when in public and coming into contact with other people." 

The governor said there are exceptions for young children or adults who have breathing problems.

MORE: Gov. John Bel Edwards likely to begin lifting stay-at-home order May 1

Edwards said Louisiana remains on a trajectory that will allow him to begin reopening the economy with conditions, but that could change if residents become reckless and disregard social distancing and gathering in crowds of 10 or more.

"We're going to be announcing a plan in the coming days to discuss next steps forward, but nobody should think we're in the clear today," he said. "We're not even close."

He also addressed critics who believe the economy should be opened sooner.

"I hear people say the stay-at-home order is having an adverse impact on the economy," Edwards said. "But if it's not done there's an even bigger adverse impact on the economy. You're not going to reopen the economy when people are sick and dying and don't have access to a hospital bed or ventilator."

READ: Louisiana coronavirus update: Cases top 25K, but hospitalizations, ventilator use decline

The governor said Louisiana's trajectory of new cases and hospitalizations continue to track in a downward or stable direction, though he mourned the 68 new deaths reported by the health department Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 1,473.

Louisiana passed 25,000 coronavirus cases Wednesday with 404 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to 25,258, but hospitalizations declined by 41 and the number of patients needing ventilators also went down by 10.

"I believe we can say we've reached a plateau on cases on Louisiana," Edwards said, noting Louisiana has dropped from No. 3 in America in the number of per capita cases to No. 5. "I'll take that as good news. The best news from today is both hospitalizations and patients on ventilators have decreased."

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.

This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: Louisiana COVID-19: Gov. John Bel Edwards says 'mask up' as reopening approaches

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