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City, parish drop mask requirements

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Facemasks are no longer required at city or parish buildings as a way to mitigate COVID-19.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker and Lincoln Parish Administrator Doug Postel on Wednesday said they were doing away with mask requirements in public buildings in accord with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ lifting the statewide mask mandate.

Under the gubernatorial order that went into effect Wednesday, local governments and businesses can make their own decisions whether to require face coverings.

Though the parish dropped the mandate for all public spaces, such as lobbies, entryways and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury office, independent agencies housed in parish buildings may make their own mask rules, Postel said.

Those agencies include the clerk of court, registrar of voters, assessor’s office, 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, LSU AgCenter and 3rd Judicial District Court.

The city and parish decisions do not preclude people from wearing masks in the now-exempt areas if they still wish to do so.

Walker said the Ruston Civic Center can now reopen under the more relaxed crowdsize regulations that were also part of Edwards’ order.

Indoor venues may operate at 75% capacity while enforcing 6 feet of social distancing but without masks or at 100% capacity with masks required and enforced, according to the gubernatorial order.

Louisiana is continuing to require masks at schools, state-licensed healthcare facilities, public transportation and some state buildings. Social distancing and masking are recommended by both the Edwards administration and the Centers for

Disease Control.

Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Judy Copeland praised the end of the mask mandate, saying the move was good for business.

“I think it’s showing we’re moving forward, and business can get back to some sort of nor malcy,” Copeland said.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Center, in which the chamber office is located, had already taken down its sign asking visitors to wear masks.

Facemasks began to be worn in Lincoln Parish in late March of 2020 — the month the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed locally. Louisiana did not mandate masking until July 13.

In March of last year, local seamstresses who were making masks from home couldn’t keep up with orders for fabric facemasks from area healthcare workers and other people concerned about personal protection from the coronavirus.

In late April 2020, more than 17,000 reusable, cotton masks made available through the Hanes clothing company were handed out in seven locations across the parish.