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Governor John Bel Edwards takes notes alongside a graphic of the statewide mask mandate as Dr. Joseph Kanter speaks during a press conference, Saturday, July 11, 2020, at GOHSEP in Baton Rouge, La. Edwards announced that beginning Monday at 12:01 am, bars would be closed to on-premises consumption and there would be a statewide mask mandate across Louisiana.

Livingston Parish will not penalize people people who don't wear a mask in public, local leaders said Monday, even though the parish's coronavirus caseload is four times the rate needed to be exempt from a new state mandate requiring masks be worn in public

The announcement came as Gov. John Bel Edwards' order requiring anyone in a public indoor setting wear a mask or face covering took effect on Monday, amid a statewide rise in new coronavirus cases.

Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said in a statement Monday that while he encourages people to take precautions from getting sick, local authorities will not "strictly enforce" the state mandate, including citing people. 

“I have received many emails and messages from constituents wanting me to opt out of the Order,” Ricks said. “Unfortunately, this is not an option for Livingston Parish.”

Only three parishes were exempt from the governor's order because their caseload fell under a threshold of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people. They include West Feliciana, Grant Parish and Red River Parish.

Livingston Parish has about 400 cases per 100,000, according to the latest state data.

Public health officials and the governor's office have stressed the importance of wearing a face-covering in public, especially in areas where maintaining six-foot distance from others is difficult.

They say it reduces the chances of spreading respiratory droplets that can carry the virus and can be spread to others from coughing, talking or even breathing. The precaution is especially important, they say, because an unknown number of people can spread the virus without showing symptoms of the coronavirus-born illness, COVID-19.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad