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COVID emergency order to expire in Louisiana after 2 years: 'We are in a much better place'

The COVID emergency proclamation, which has been in effect for exactly two years since the pandemic reached Louisiana in March 2020, will not be renewed when it expires Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday.

The news of the lift comes on the two-year anniversary of Louisiana’s first confirmed COVID death, and at the same time that health officials report a drop in cases, hospitalizations and deaths following the unprecedented omicron variant surge.

“God willing, we will never have to see such difficult mitigation measures in our state again,” Edwards said during his State of the State speech. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that we are in a much better place today than we were two years ago.”

The order was first put in place March 11, 2020, days after cases began popping up in Louisiana. Three days later, the first Louisianan died from the virus in metro New Orleans, and the region would eventually establish itself as an early hotspot due to Mardi Gras 2020 festivities. Since the pandemic’s start, more than 16,800 people have died from the coronavirus, and 1.2 million residents have tested positive.

But in recent weeks, as Louisiana came out of a fifth surge marked by a highly contagious, but less deadly variant, officials in Louisiana and across the nation have moved away from closures and restrictions and instead have recommended safety measures to manage the virus.

After a year without parades, Mardi Gras festivities returned to Louisiana, with several major events to follow. Except in New Orleans Public Schools, healthcare facilities and public transportation, masks are no longer required, and the city of New Orleans is expected to drop its vaccine mandate later this month.

Even as Edwards celebrated the state’s improved COVID-19 outlook, Edwards urged Louisianans not to completely let their guards down.

“Just because the proclamation is expiring doesn’t mean COVID is over,” Edwards said. “If the circumstances call for it, I will not hesitate to declare another emergency.”

On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health announced 537 new COVID-19 cases and 210 hospitalizations.

Edwards’ announcement was met with applause from Louisiana state lawmakers, who convened their 2022 regular legislative session on Monday.

Over the last two years, lawmakers have filed dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at curtailing the governor’s ability to declare, renew and enforce declarations of public health emergencies and COVID restrictions.

Republican state lawmakers have already filed several similar measures this year.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.
Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.