David Jacobs | The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards reiterated Tuesday that he does not expect to extend his current “stay at home” order in its current form at the end of the month, though at least some of the restrictions will continue and no final decisions have been made.
Health care providers already have been given the green light to begin conducting non-emergency procedures starting Monday if delaying further would jeopardize the patient’s health.
So what will dictate when and how other sectors of the economy will see loosened restrictions? Slowing the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 remains the top priority, which requires everyone staying home as much as possible and keeping their distance from others when they must go out, he said.
Increasing testing capacity also will be important, Edwards said. While Louisiana is among the nation’s leaders in testing relative to its population size, more is needed, including diagnostic testing for the virus and serological testing for antibodies produced in response to the virus.
Many of the latter type of tests have been controversial, and Edwards said federal officials have warned state leaders to be wary of foreign-made tests.
“Currently, CDC’s serologic test is designed and validated for broad-based surveillance and research that will give us information needed to guide the response to the pandemic and protect the public’s health,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. “The test is not currently designed to test individuals who want to know if they have been previously infected with COVID-19.”
The third key factor is more extensive contact tracing, Edwards said. When someone tests positive for the virus, officials would like to be able to quarantine people the positive patient came in contact with for about 48 hours before showing symptoms. Edwards did not say if such quarantines would be mandatory.
Edwards’ administration would like to be able to test up to 200,000 people per month, compared to a little more than 140,000 total tests so far, and to expand the state’s contact tracing team from 70 to 700.
Louisiana does not yet meet federal guidelines to begin phase one of the White House’s blueprint for beginning to lift the partial economic shutdown, Edwards said, but it might by May 1 when his current stay-at-home order will have expired. State officials reported 331 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, which he said was the smallest number in at least a week.
Preconditions states should meet before beginning to reopen according to the White House include a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period, or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within 14 days while the amount of tests being conducted increases or stays the same, among other factors.
Officials also reported 77 new deaths, bringing the state’s total to 1,405.
The governor’s commission focused on economic resiliency amid the pandemic will meet for the first time Wednesday. According to agendas the state economic development department distributed, meetings will be held by phone at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.