St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
April 28, 2021
9:45 A.M.

LIFTING OF MASK MANDATE
EXECUTIVE ORDER 79 JBE 2021

Yesterday, the Governor issued a revised Executive Order 79 JBE 2021 which substantially eliminates most of the restrictions which have been imposed since March 22, 2020. I have not had the opportunity to thoroughly review this latest executive order. However, in the next day or so, I will closely outline its dictates and publish same for the edification of our businesses and residents. Meanwhile, I have studied that portion of the proclamation which has captured everyone’s attention relative to the Governor’s lifting of the statewide mask mandate.

While the Governor’s Executive Order 79 JBE 2021 has rescinded the statewide mask mandate which he issued on July 13, 2021, it nevertheless remains in effect at:
1. K-12 schools
2. Colleges and universities
3. Early childhood education centers
4. Hospitals
5. Nursing Homes
6. Public Transit systems such as airports/planes, taxis, and the like
7. All State buildings which operate under the purview of the Governor

Under Section 3(F) of the Governor’s proclamation, Parish Government retains the authority to issue a mask mandate under the dictates of the Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, La. R.S. 29:721, et seq. As such, I have evaluated this matter very closely and WILL NOT impose such a mandate. As most of those who have dealt with me during this COVID-19 journey will attest, I have formulated my various positions and made associated decisions strictly in accordance with the dictates of the consensus articulated by medical science as opposed to ideology or the unsubstantiated outlier opinions. As I vet the extant decision about a local mask mandate, I have no basis upon which to act contrary to the Governor whose current order is premised upon CDC guidelines and the numerous medical advisors upon who he has relied. Indeed, at this point in time, when one balances the interests of our business community against the current medical science, a mask mandate appears imprudent.

Moreover, the total of new cases remains relatively low and COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to be below the numbers we were experiencing last year. More importantly, those who wish to be protected can receive one of three vaccines which are readily available. The efficacy of two vaccine options is over 95% and is 65%-70% for the third option.

I am nonetheless concerned about the fact that our new cases are still on a upward trend albeit at a low rate. The same pattern holds true for our hospitalization rates as regards COVID-19. Even more disconcerting is the fact that only 32% of our state has initiated the vaccine (26% fully vaccinated) compared to the national average of 42%. The vaccination rate for St. Martin Parish is only 21.8% (17.5% fully vaccinated). Only 12 parishes in the state have a lower percentage of its residents vaccinated. Furthermore, I remain concerned about the variants which infectious disease experts advise are becoming more prevalent. I pray that our vaccinations increase at a faster pace than the evolving variants.

However, in my view there is no basis to mandate a policy which the State of Louisiana has deemed unnecessary. Especially, as alluded to previously, to my knowledge there is no scientific/medical basis upon which to challenge the lifting of the mask mandate.

However, I will continue the requirement that masks be worn in all parish-owned and parish-operated buildings. I wish to encourage everyone to feel safe and uninhibited in visiting our parish facilities. This requirement does not apply to outdoor activities at our parks and related recreational facilities where no mask need be worn. Also, I will not require that events at our various community centers will be subject to any mask mandate; rather, I will leave the organization or person(s) renting the various facilities to make that decisions which will affect the capacity for the event.

I conclude this message with the guidance of Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s Health Officer: “Low risk does not mean no risk.” Therefore, I continue to urge our residents to continue to be vigilant and follow safe and commonsensical practices.