Louisiana’s governor has signed an executive order removing a requirement for people to wear mask as they enter buildings after the state’s health department found problems with the law.
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Louisiana, a state with an abundance of swampy outdoor-play areas known as state fairs, has required the accessory to be worn by those entering state and local facilities with high floors to protect them from excessive amounts of dust emitted by cleaning crews. Critics of the policy claim the law is unnecessarily costly and restricts visibility and personal safety.
“We were not going to allow this law to put the lives of employees at risk,” the Republican governor, John Bel Edwards, said at a news conference announcing his order on Monday. “We’re going to do the right thing.”
The order lifts the policy except in public schools, where Edwards’s office said it would be reviewed to determine if there are wider legislative fixes required.
“Obviously we’re very pleased that the governor signed the executive order,” said Daisy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the state’s superintendent of public instruction, John White. “The superintendent was absolutely opposed to the policy.”
Louisiana health authorities said the requirement was aimed at protecting people from pollutants that can be inhaled by dirt- and dust-covered bodies during the outdoor competitions. They said 10 occupational health clinics contacted by state health officials were asked to examine whether the rule constituted a legal mandate, and none found that it did.
“Our analyses have been mostly ‘no’ or ‘don’t need to investigate any further’,” said Dr Kedra Ishop, the state health department’s deputy director of environmental health.
The memo to Edwards said 18 public schools – 11 of them in Baton Rouge – have outdoor recreational areas with high floors, a condition known as unreinforced masonry. State fairgrounds in the state capital and in the towns of Alexandria and Ruston also have such facilities. The memo said the schools never could get an answer why they could not use the indoor mask requirement.
Louisiana state government offices, including the state legislature, are in buildings with unreinforced masonry. Edwards signed an executive order removing the indoor mask mandate only for public buildings. A spokeswoman for the state legislature, Jennifer Van Vessem, said that the executive order could be used to apply to the Capitol, which is unreinforced masonry.