BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A face mask mandate went into effect in Baton Rouge at noon on Friday, July 3.
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced Wednesday, July 1 that she signed an executive order to mandate face coverings as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.
Click here to read the full executive order.
Violations will result in a misdemeanor summons and a fine to be determined by a judge.
The mandate goes into effect Friday, July 3 and will remain in effect until Aug. 3. The necessity of the order will be assessed before it expires to determine whether or not it needs to continue.
“This is an effort to protect the health and well-being of residents and visitors, and to assist in the safe reopening of the parish economy without the need for the stricter economic mitigation efforts put in place earlier this year,” said Mayor Broome. “The ‘No Mask, No Service’ policy will help ensure our businesses can remain open and safely serve customers. My message to our community is simple: save a life, save our economy, and wear a face covering.”
The order specifically targets businesses, not individuals, requiring owners to put up signage telling customers they must wear a mask before entering and mandating the businesses refuse service to customers who are not wearing masks.
If a business is found to not be in compliance with the order, a warning will be issued. Baton Rouge Police Department Chief Murphy Paul says officers will contact the owner to educate them on the policy and why it’s in place. Only after two warnings will officers consider issuing a summons.
At the minimum, the executive order requires all employees and visitors of businesses to wear a face covering while in the area or performing an activity that involves close contact with the public. The mandate also required the policy be posted near all entrances to a business in clear view of employees and the public.
FAQ ABOUT THE NEW FACE MASK MANDATE
Q: Do I need to wear a face covering outdoors?
A: Face coverings are required inside all commercial and nonprofit entities in the city-parish providing goods or services directly to the public. Face coverings should also be worn in outdoor group settings, where social distancing is not feasible.
Q: Do I need to wear a face covering in restaurants, coffee shops, dining areas, food courts, bars, and night clubs?
A: Face coverings are not required while eating and drinking. They should be worn when entering, exiting, or while in a common area in all establishments.
Q: Do I need to wear a face covering while at a gym or fitness center?
A: Face coverings should be worn when entering and exiting the gym or fitness center, but they are not required while exercising.
Q: Does this order apply to every municipality in East Baton Rouge Parish?
A: No, this order does not apply to the cities of Zachary, Baker, or Central.
While the order does not apply to Baker, Mayor Darnell Waites has said he “highly recommends” business owners require face masks for all employees and visitors.
The mayor’s office says the Baton Rouge Fire Department, Baton Rouge Police Department, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (for unincorporated areas of the parish) have been authorized to enforce the order.
In the last 11 days, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has reported 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 in East Baton Rouge Parish, making up 17% of total cases parish-wide since the coronavirus pandemic first struck in mid-March.
On Wednesday, July 1, East Baton Rouge Parish recorded the largest single-day increase of new cases in the last month and a half (the third-highest since the pandemic began).
The increase of cases and hospitalizations, the mayor says, is not solely from the increased availability of testing parish-wide.
At the beginning of June, 6% of tests returned positive results in East Baton Rouge Parish. On July 1, that number has nearly doubled to 11-12%.
A larger percentage of people are testing positive, especially young adults between the ages of 18 and 29.
“Baton Rouge is experiencing a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic,” Mayor Broome says. “We have to do everything we can to move forward safely. We can not - and let me repeat this - can not afford to return to a stay at home order.”
Mayor Broome joined WAFB on 9News at Noon Wednesday before announcing the mandate.
She doubled down on the instructions government and health officials have been repeating the last several days as cases of coronavirus continue to surge nationwide, including in Louisiana; wear a mask, practice safe social distancing, wash your hands, stay home.
She mentioned the hotline her office created to help people report businesses that aren’t complying with health guidelines. She says these are things people can do to help reduce the spread.
“The moment is now to take extra steps to sure up the health and well-being of the citizens of East Baton Rouge,” she told Lauren Westbrook.
Mayor Broome says she’s been collaborating with entities in both the business and medical sectors to devise ways to save lives and the economy. One of the key components to the success of both worlds, she mentioned, is to wear a mask.
“It’s short term discomfort for long-term gain,” she said. “We are in the middle of a medical crisis. We have to do whatever we can to get through it and minimize the deaths of COVID-19.”
There is not a specific type of mask you are required to wear. Any type of material that covers your face is acceptable. The mandate especially applies to enclosed spaces, inside businesses, and “other gatherings.”
“I want to save our economy. I want to save lives. For people who want to join me, wear a mask,” Broome said. “If you want to save a life, then start by wearing a mask.”
Mask giveaways will continue.
When asked what she would say to those who feel mask mandates infringe on the constitutional rights of Americans, Mayor Broome said “there will always be people who don’t believe in the severity of what’s going on at this time. Until they personally experience it, they’re going to continue to be naysayers.”
Mayor Broome said closing bars was “not off the table.”
“Until we have a vaccine, we are challenging the health and well-being of our citizens,” Broome said.
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