As mask mandate goes into effect, Baton Rouge quickly adjusts
BATON ROUGE - As of noon on Friday, July 3 patrons of businesses in Louisiana's capital city are no longer allowed to enter a business without wearing a mask or face-covering.
Federal and state health officials agree that wearing a mask or face covering can help decrease the chance of someone spreading COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in one's household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Experts agree that people who have novel coronavirus are often asymptomatic, and can spread the virus without even realizing they're carriers.
This information, coupled with the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the capital city, led Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome to make it a matter of law that all patrons of businesses wear masks.
Mayor Broome issued the mask mandate Wednesday and initially wanted it to go in effect the following day.
But many business owners, a bit thrown by the seemingly sudden order, had questions about the new regulation, especially regarding how they were expected to enforce it.
After receiving pushback, Mayor Broome acquiesced and agreed the mandate would go into effect Friday. She also took measures to clarify certain aspects of the order.
The mandate requires that all commercial and nonprofit entities in the parish providing goods or services directly to the public require patrons to wear masks or face coverings.
Businesses have been encouraged to post signs at their entrances informing the public about the requirement, though there are certain situations where the mask won't be required, like while eating or drinking inside an establishment.
On Wednesday, during a webinar with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Mayor Broome addressed questions regarding enforcement of the order, stating that law enforcement will not seek offenders simply to issue summons for not wearing masks. Most of the enforcement will come through tips from the public regarding businesses not complying.
Violators face misdemeanor fines not to exceed $200 and/or no more than 60 days in jail.
The Baton Rouge Police Department and the city's fire department won't issue any summons until the third time a business has been reported for non-compliance.
"We want people to get it in their hearts and mind the value of wearing a mask," Broome said. "If we go into this situation with the attitude of trying to save a life and save our economy simultaneously, then we'll get through this successfully."
The mask mandate is in effect until Monday, August 3, 2020.
Click here to view the official order.