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East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome speaks during an announcement of two initiatives, through partnerships between her office's HealthyBR program and Uber, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, Relief Health, the Louisiana Primary Care Association and area hospitals, as a part of the city-parish's effort to increase COVID-19 vaccine accessibility, Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Greater Mt. Canaan Baptist Church at 5820 Evangeline Street. In the first, Relief Telemed will offer COVID-19 vaccines at a series of pop-up clinics in underserved communities of East Baton Rouge Parish, including one from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the church. The second initiative will provide free Uber rides to people needing them, using a promo code after they make an appointment to be vaccinated.

Several local parish governments lifted their requirements for wearing masks after Gov. John Bel Edwards eased rules statewide Tuesday afternoon.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome lifted the parishwide mask mandate she put in place in July to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Broome is still requiring masks be worn inside city-parish buildings. But she's allowing local businesses to shape their own policies around face coverings.

"Now is not the time to let down our guard," Broome said in a statement. "We must continue to work together to end this pandemic."

Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he would not implement a mask mandate.

"This should help our local businesses that have struggled financially under the statewide mask mandate," Ricks said. 

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment said the parish would no longer require masks to be worn, including in parish-operated buildings.

“Now that vaccines are more widely available, I am lifting the facemask requirement in all buildings operated by Ascension Parish Government,” he said. “The pandemic is still with us, so I urge everyone to keep vigilant and to continue to follow safe practices.”

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Ricks and Cointment both said local businesses still have a right to require masks and asked residents to respect those decisions.

In Iberville Parish, masks will be required in the courthouse and government buildings, but will not be required elsewhere, according to a parish statement on Facebook.

The local leaders' decisions followed Gov. John Bel Edwards' announcement that he was ending Louisiana's statewide mask mandate, instead giving local businesses and governments the power to set their own guidelines when it comes to face covering during the ongoing pandemic.  

Masks will still be required at K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, hospitals and nursing homes, according to an order issued Tuesday by the Louisiana Department of Health.

The Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday also said mask wearing was no longer required outdoors for people whether they were vaccinated or not as long as they're walking, biking or congregating in small groups. Mask wearing is still encouraged for large outdoor gatherings. 

Staff writer David Mitchell contributed to this report.


Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com