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Face Mask Drama in Louisiana Continues

09:00 September 09, 2020
By: Brhea Washington

A Denham Springs BBQ restaurant faces legal repercussions after not complying with state face mask regulations. Following complaints from the public in July, state marshals were notified of Firehouse BBQ's refusal to require face coverings and social distancing within the restaurant. Though the Louisiana Health Department has demanded that Firehouse close, the restaurant has continued to serve customers and make face masks voluntary, despite concerns of a public health risk. A lawsuit has been filed by the state against Firehouse BBQ and, as of last week, the case was currently at a halt, due to delays and court measures regarding where the restaurant's case will be heard. According to an article on the Houma Today website, restaurant owner Danielle Bunch believes that mask regulations are illegal, as she feels that businesses should not have to become regulation enforcers.

The lawsuit's outcome will be substantial because the Department of Health's victory against Firehouse would reinforce Louisiana Governor John Bel Edward's mandate of obligatory face coverings and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Health Department may be able to fine businesses that do not follow state public health orders, such as face mask requirements. The result of the lawsuit might also impact the restaurant industry, since Firehouse's win could result in additional businesses challenging state health guidelines and restrictions.

Health specialists state that face coverings are essential in allowing the economy to currently function, helping to prevent COVID-19 cases and exposure from spiking. However, medical exemptions have grown to be a concern, and Firehouse BBQ owner stated that the medical conditions of some employees goes against mask orders. A violation of health privacy laws might also be a concern if employers were to question the medical exemptions of workers or customers regarding their compliance toward wearing face masks. Health officials state that there is a very small list of medical conditions that would support being allowed to go without a mask covering, but those with such conditions have an even greater risk of health complications if they were to contract COVID-19.

Denham Springs's Parish, Livingston, has had 3,500 COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths since March's rapid increase of cases in Louisiana. Today, COVID-19 continues to pose a large health risk and spread, even before symptoms are shown.

Firehouse's case is ongoing, and some have come out in support of the restaurant's dispute against face mask regulations, while others have encouraged Gov. John Bel Edwards's enforcement of mask mandates statewide.

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