As COVID-19 cases spread across the state, Gov. John Bel Edwards this week instituted a temporary mask mandate.

According to the Louisiana Department of Hospitals, many parishes in the northeastern section of the state, including Concordia, are classified as highest-risk.

The Office of Public Health is providing COVID vaccination and testing Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at all locations, including Ferriday, according to Dr. David J. Holcombe, Regional Administrator/Medical Director for Region 6.

There is no pre-registration or out-of-pocket expenses for either vaccination or testing.

The Concordia Parish School Board will determine during a special meeting Thursday night whether to institute a mask mandate.

According to a survey of parish schools completed several days ago by Superintendent Toyua Watson, 507 respondents favored recommending masks but not requiring them, while 215 said masks should be required.

The results were revealed during a special board meeting July 22.

Those favoring that masks be recommended but not required included the CPSB staff, Concordia Parish Academy, Monterey High, Vidalia Elementary, Vidalia Upper, Vidalia Junior High and Vidalia.

Those supporting a mask requirement included all four Ferriday Schools – Ferriday Lower, Ferriday Upper, Ferriday Junior High and Ferriday High.

Responses at some schools were exceptionally low, according to the survey.

Statistics indicated Concordia has 2,263 COVID-19 cases and has experienced 62 deaths since the outbreak.

Regionally, Richland Parish was classified in highest-risk category with cases totaling 2,854 and 58 deaths.

Caldwell Parish cases numbered 1,259 with 29 deaths. Caldwell also entered into the highest-risk category.

Southern neighbor, Catahoula Parish, was at high risk with 1,324 virus cases and 39 deaths.

Tensas Parish continued to have one of the lowest COVID-19 cases with 386 and eight deaths. LDH classified Tensas as moderate risk.

LDH put Madison Parish in the high-risk category with virus numbers totaling 1,714 and 43 deaths.

Meanwhile, Gov. John Bel Edwards reinstated Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate Monday afternoon amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. As of August 3, Louisiana had 1,984 patients in hospitals with 213 on ventilators.

Edwards said the mandate is temporary and cited concerns over public safety and the state’s ability to care for infected patients as the basis for his new executive order. 

“It has never been more clear that we are in an unchecked COVID surge that, in addition to threatening the health and well-being of many Louisianans, also threatens the capacity of our hospitals and medical facilities to deliver care to their patients,” Edwards said.

All Louisiana residents and visitors to the state age five and older must wear masks when indoors until September 1, though Edwards said the mandate may be extended beyond that date.

The mask mandate also applies to K-12 schools and universities for the upcoming school year, beginning this month. All students, including kindergarteners, faculty and visitors are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

According to recent data, Louisiana has the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita of any state in the country, a fact often blamed on the state’s low vaccination rate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday, however, that fully vaccinated individuals can transmit the disease.

The CDC published findings from a Massachusetts-based study showing 74 percent of new cases were so-called "breakthrough" cases, or those occurring in fully vaccinated people. The study was noted in the text of Edwards' order.

According to LDH, 90 percent of COVID-19 cases and 85 percent of deaths from July 15 to July 21 were from those not fully vaccinated.

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