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From left, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Congressman Steve Scalise chat as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a press conference following a round table discussion, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has for weeks recommended Louisiana take more drastic steps to stem the rise of the coronavirus, including rolling back indoor dining rules, closing gyms and limiting gatherings to 10 people.

The recommendations, outlined in state reports sent weekly by the White House that were obtained through a public records request, show federal officials have backed stringent rules to tamp down Louisiana’s latest surge in cases and hospitalizations.

While the state has largely followed the White House’s lead on coronavirus restrictions since the outset of the pandemic, Gov. John Bel Edwards has recently kept many of the state’s rules in place despite stricter recommendations from the task force.

For instance, on July 14, the task force recommended mask mandates and the closure of bars and gyms in hot spots, in a report that came days after Edwards shuttered bars and mandated masks statewide.

But in that report, and in documents dated July 20 and July 26, the task force also recommended moving to outdoor dining and limiting indoor dining to less than 25% of normal capacity, as well as limiting gathering sizes to 10. Currently indoor dining is allowed at 50% capacity in Louisiana and the gathering limit is 50.

Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Edwards, said the governor received the recommendations to roll back indoor dining just days after announcing the mask mandate and bar closure. Edwards wants to see if those moves will make an impact on coronavirus trends before issuing new restrictions, she said.

“Unfortunately it takes 14 days to see in the data if we’re having an impact on the policies we have in place,” Stephens said. “If you’re putting so many restrictions in place every couple of days you might not give them enough time to work.”

Read the White House recommendations here: 

Before the most recent restrictions, the White House recommendations led to new rules in Louisiana, with officials following the task force’s lead.

On June 29, the task force started recommending that the state “consider mandating mask use and closing bars” if cases continue to rise in Baton Rouge; a few days later, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome issued a mask mandate for the city and parts of the parish.

On July 5, the Task Force recommended Louisiana “require cloth mask usage in highly affected areas experiencing increases in cases.” Less than a week later, Edwards mandated masks and closed bars statewide.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, backed Edwards’ decision to mandate masks and close bars when he visited LSU earlier this month to insist that schools reopen. Louisiana is currently in the midst of a surge in cases and hospitalizations that has put a strain on several hospitals.

Edwards is slated to hold his latest coronavirus press briefing at 4 p.m. 

Check back for more. 

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Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com