Governor John Bel Edwards made news Thursday more for what he didn't say than for what he did. The Governor, addressing Louisianans on the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the COVID 19 virus, was expected by most to reinstate a statewide mask mandate, but stopped short the order, instead asking residents to take extra precautions in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus.

The Governor also said that, even though no mask mandate is currently in place, it doesn’t mean citizens should ignore their importance in mitigating the spread of the virus.

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The easily transmitted Omicron variant is the driving force in COVID hospitalizations in the state doubling over the last week to over 600, a number still far short of the 3,000 hospitalized as recently as August of this year.

While passing on another mandate for the time being, Edwards did refer to the possibility in the weeks ahead.  “I don’t take it off the table, because what we cannot have happen is that our hospitals lose the ability, the capacity to render lifesaving care and we will do a mask mandate before that happens," he said, "But I would ask that people not focus on whether there’s a mandate in place, the recommendation is the same, we know that masks work, so especially indoors with people you don’t live with wear a mask,”

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The governor also encouraged more people to get vaccinations or boosters, emphasizing that COVID vaccinations have shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations and severe illness.

Edwards added that he realized that many COVID testing sites are currently overwhelmed and he acknowledge the difficulty of locating home tests. The Governor told Louisiana, "If you are showing symptoms and unable to get tested assume you are positive and stay isolated."

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