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After speaking, Governor John Bel Edwards, puts his mask back on at a press conference announcing a public-private partnership that will revitalize a Medical Office Complex by New Era Holdings located at 7855 Howell Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a rare Saturday press conference where he is expected to announce new restrictions that will likely include a statewide mask mandate and and heightened restrictions on bars, according to a source with knowledge of the announcement. 

Update: Edwards has officially announced a mask mandate and the closure of bars

Edwards is set to announce the moves 2:30 p.m. Saturday after the state posted two straight days of more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases and as trends have worsened over the past two weeks. 

The move will extend statewide a mask mandate, which already has been put in place by Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and Orleans parishes, among others. Those rules require the public to wear masks or face coverings inside businesses. 

He is also expected to ratchet up restrictions on bars, which have come under heightened scrutiny for their propensity to spread the virus.

[WATCH LIVE: John Bel Edwards with a 'very important announcement' on coronavirus at 2:30 p.m.]

Christina Stephens, Edwards' spokeswoman, said Saturday afternoon "we are still discussing and finalizing what we are going to announce at 2:30." 

Several other Southern states have made similar moves recently. Texas has shuttered bars and issued a similar a mask mandate. Mississippi has also issued a mask mandate and Florida has banned alcohol consumption at bars.  

The governor's office said in a press release Saturday he will "make an announcement about Louisiana's response to COVID-19" at a 2:30 p.m. press conference at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The administration was still working out the details of the order Saturday ahead of the announcement. 

The announcement represents the first time the governor will have ratcheted up the restrictions since starting a phased reopening May 15. 

Louisiana has experienced worsening coronavirus metrics statewide. Not only are cases rising to levels never before seen, the share of results coming back positive has shot up in recent weeks, meaning the increases in cases can't be explained away by increases in testing. Hospitalizations have also surged, meaning the infections aren't limited to young people who don't experience severe symptoms. 

Edwards' decision comes after House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, sent a message to Republican members warning them of a host of negative consequences if they follow through with a petition to end the state's public health emergency. Schexnayder warned the Health Department and emergency officials would lose the ability to respond to disasters and that the state could lose federal assistance if the petition goes forward. 

Conservative representatives, led by state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, and House GOP Delegation Chair Blake Miguez, R-Erath, have sought to get the required 53 signatures of members of the House to end Louisiana's emergency declaration, effectively ending all coronavirus restrictions. 

Schexnayder's message is likely to halt whatever momentum the effort may have had, given the speaker's influence in the lower chamber. 

Check back for more details. 


Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com