To Mask or Not To Mask

I believe the decision to wear a face mask is a personal one. I do not encourage people to wear or not wear masks when they go out in public. The science is far from settled. It makes some people feel better to wear a mask. Others are downright uncomfortable and can barely breathe–or even feel claustrophobic wearing one.

Local governments across the state, as well as Governor Edwards, have mandated mask use in Louisiana. The question I keep getting is whether or not it is legal and enforceable. For what it is worth, my opinion is that it is not. Louisiana Attorney General, Jeff Landry, seems to agree with my position in his recent published opinion.

What Landry basically says is that the Governor’s mandate, as with that of most municipality decrees, puts the burden of enforcing master laws on local businesses. It pretty much makes them pick up the job of making sure their customers wear a mask when they enter the premises. The governor’s mandate requires citizens wear a mask, but places no enforcement against people who decline to put one on. It is a strange proclamation that basically deputizes business owners, but prevents them from making any real inquiry over whether a customer has a valid exemption.

In one paragraph, it specifically says that Louisiana citizens are required to wear a face covering. Further in the decree, it says that no law enforcement officer can issue a citation directly to a citizen for not wearing a mask. In other words, it is a suggestion and purely voluntary. 

Attorney General Landry points out certain inconsistencies in the governor’s decree, along with constitutional issues with enforcement. The most interesting exception to the order he pointed out is the exemption from wearing one when eating or drinking. Landry suggests that one “get around” would be to walk around drinking a beverage. That would perpetually exempt the individual from the verbiage of the statewide order.

Most business owners are going to err on the side of caution and require the patrons wear masks.

Statewide and local mask ordinances carve out exceptions for people with medical or mental conditions that prevent them from wearing masks. Presumably, all someone has to do is to say they have a medical issue and they are exempt from wearing a face covering. Due to healthcare privacy laws, it is unlikely that anyone would actually ask the basis of the person’s supposed medical condition. I suspect claiming a religious exemption would also work.

If you are on the fence about wearing a mask, take the time to read a news article on the attorney general’s opinion, as well as AG Landry’s actual opinion. It is actually a pretty easy read. 

I am not encouraging anyone to refuse to wear a mask. I am just trying to share the facts.

Written by Greg Gouner

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