Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday once the U. S. Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to COVID-19 vaccines, possibly by Labor Day, the action should pave the way for the mandatory vaccinations of LSU students and state employees.

"It would be my expectation that once full authorization is granted . . . then that vaccine will be added to the list and will work just like the current mumps, measles and other vaccines," Edwards said.

The governor made his comments during a 30-minute virtual town hall meeting hosted by The Advocate and Times-Picayune.

Edwards answered questions from Peter Kovacs, editor of the paper, mostly based on those submitted by readers for the event.

The three coronavirus vaccines in use today -- Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- are authorized by the FDA for emergency use only.

The federal agency is under heavy political pressure to quickly give final approval to the vaccines so college leaders and others feel they are on more comfortable legal ground in mandating the vaccine.

Edwards said The New York Times reported Tuesday approval is near.

"I think that is going to happen relatively soon, perhaps by Labor Day," he said.

LSU leaders on Wednesday said students will not be required to be vaccinated to register for classes but those who are not will have to undergo monthly tests for the virus.

Edwards, an attorney himself, noted that the 7th U. S. Court of Appeals recently upheld the University of Indiana's right to require students to get the vaccine after a district court ruled the same way.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards joins Advocate and Times-Picayune editor Peter Kovacs in a virtual town hall, sponsored by AARP Louisiana, to discuss the latest wave of COVID-19.

"In Louisiana we are taking a different approach," he said.

"It is not just LSU," Edwards noted.

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"It is all of higher education in Louisiana that is approaching this from this same angle and I am not going to involve myself in that decision," he said of waiting for FDA approval.

Several private schools, including Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of Holy Cross, have made vaccinations for students mandatory and report vaccination rates in the mid-90's and higher.

The vaccination rate for LSU students is believed to be less than 30%.

Edwards on Monday said he was re-imposing his indoor face mask mandate amid the state's skyrocketing rate of coronavirus cases.

But he said Wednesday he has no plans to resume restrictions on businesses and other steps he ordered earlier in the pandemic.

"I have no intention of doing that. I have not been requested to do that. That is not a CDC recommendation," he said, a reference to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The least onerous thing we can do to try to curb transmission and give some breathing room to hospitals is to reinstate the mask mandate," the governor said.

"We didn't close any businesses. We didn't limit any hours. This is a very targeted and limited approach that we believe will be effective."

Edwards was asked why the state does not delay the start of public schools because of the fourth surge of the coronavirus.

He said both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded students who wear face masks can safely return to classes.

Edwards also noted that the state Department of Education said Tuesday students who attended in-person classes scored 15% better on key math and English tests than those who relied on virtual learning during the 2020-21 school year.

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