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Louisiana judge upholds rules meant to control COVID-19

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards holds a news conference on July 30, 2020.

(The Center Square) – A Baton Rouge judge on Thursday sided with Gov. John Bel Edwards in a lawsuit seeking to overturn his executive order closing barrooms, requiring masks and limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Jefferson Parish business owners who filed the suit argued the order is unconstitutional, in part because it prohibits bars from providing on-site service but allows restaurants to stay open.

Their suit relied heavily on Attorney General Jeff Landry’s opinion that the mandate is both too vague and too broad. Landry says the order undermines its stated goals with numerous exceptions and turns private businesses into an “enforcement arm” for the governor’s mask mandate. An attorney general’s opinion does not carry the force of law.

But Edwards’ administration says closing bars, limiting crowd sizes and mandating masks are all White House-approved best practices to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in states like Louisiana with high infection rates.

Edwards has pointed to recent statistics that officials say show the measures enacted July 11 are helping to bring down case counts and hospitalizations.

“We have a public health emergency,” Edwards said last week. “I believe at the end of the day, the court will fully understand that not only do I have the authority under the constitution and the laws of the United States to do what I’ve done, but what I’ve done is absolutely essential.”

Other lawsuits seeking to overturn coronavirus restrictions still are pending.

As of noon Thursday, at least 4,028 Louisiana residents with COVID-19 had died, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. There were 1,457 COVID patients in hospitals, and 215 of them were on ventilators.

More than 127,000 cases had been confirmed statewide since the pandemic began, and officials believed more than 89,000 have recovered.

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