GOVERNOR EXTENDS PHASE 2 RESTRICTIONS
BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed an executive order that extends Phase 2 and the statewide mask mandate, closure of bard to on-sited consumption and gathering size limits in Louisiana.
This extension is set to expire on Sept. 11.
Edwards said White House officials approved his decision to maintain the restrictions.
“Louisiana has seen improvement in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and this would not be possible without the hard work of the people of Louisiana who have faithfully followed the mitigation measures, including wearing their masks when in public,” said Edwards. “While we have seen drops in hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases, we also know that we have more people moving around because of schools and colleges going back to in-person classes, which is one of the reasons we will stay in Phase 2 for another two weeks.
“The White House Coronavirus Task Force also continues to recommend that Louisiana keep its current mitigation measures in place, as Louisiana remains in the red zone for new cases and many of our parishes continue to have testing positivity rates higher than 10 percent.”
Many business owners and Republican politicians have urged Edwards to loosen the restrictions, citing the economic damage. Many restaurants, for example, have trouble sustaining their business while limited to 50 percent capacity.
Business owners have filed lawsuits seeking to lift some or all of the restrictions. Bar owners in particular have said it is unfair their line of work is being singled out, especially if no COVID-19 cases have been traced to their establishments.
But state and federal public health officials say barrooms are hot spots for coronavirus transmission, which is why closing them is considered a best practice in states like Louisiana with high rates of COVID-19.
COVID-19 testing sites in Louisiana were shut down due to Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura. It takes about two weeks before a change in public behavior is reflected in the COVID-19 statistics, so Louisiana officials haven’t yet been able to measure the impact of reopening K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
“We’re basically going to be blind for this week,” Edwards said.
Counting students, staff and faculty, schools make up about 25 percent of the state’s population, Edwards said.
Though most schools are teaching at least partially online, a significant proportion of the state’s population potentially have come in contact with each other for the first time since campuses were closed in March, he said.
Southwest Louisiana has the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the state, Edwards said. Thousands of people from the region are evacuating and may not return for some time, which creates additional risk.
“The prudent thing is to go two more weeks and then do an analysis of where we are,” he said.
Recent reports have indicated modest but steady improvement in the state’s case counts, positivity rates and number of people hospitalized.
But Louisiana as a whole over the past week has had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents, which puts the state in the “red” according to federal standards. About half of the state’s parishes also are considered red, Edwards said.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, after initially supporting Edwards’ actions, has said the governor has overstepped his authority, though four court rulings have upheld the restrictions.