Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards didn't mince words when pressed on the number of state lawmakers not wearing masks as the legislature returned to work this week. 

"I really think that that's a mistake," the governor said of the decision to forgo wearing the gear recommended to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

"I would just encourage people to do that," he continued. "It really is important." 

The use or non-use of such protective gear has been a buzzing topic across the nation in recent weeks, with the CDC adding the use of masks to its recommendations in April.

Images from the statehouse this week showed that a large number of the lawmakers in attendance this week were not wearing masks or gloves. Roughly 75% of state lawmakers were in attendance when the legislature reconvened on Monday. 

Edwards cited CDC and Department of Health guidance on limiting the transmission of coronavirus in his comments. He added that he and his staff wears masks at all times, but the decision was made to forgo one during press conferences. 

That decision was made in conjunction with public health experts to ensure clarity of information in those environments, said the administration's Communications Director Christina Stephens. 

Reporters are required to remain at least 6 feet away in those environments.

Otherwise, it's mask on at all times, Stephens said. 

"Does it take some getting used to? Of course," she said. "But it is worth it to protect my co-workers and teammates."

As of Wednesday 30,399 cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed across Louisiana and 2,094 deaths had been reported. The state's stay-at-home order issued by Edwards' administration is in place until May 15. 

The statehouse has felt a direct impact of coronavirus with the death of Rep. Reggie Bagala.


Email Jeff Nowak at jnowak@theadvocate.com

Twitter: @Jeff_Nowak