Cassidy: COVID-19 data must drive economic decisions

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Though some of his fellow Republicans want Louisiana’s economy reopened May 1, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said Friday that data should drive those decisions.

“If your transmission rate is below a certain level, then you can safely open up,” he said. “If your transmission rate is above a certain level, you cannot.”

And if the average number of people infected by COVID-19 patients goes up after restrictions are lifted, some might need to be re-imposed, Cassidy added. He didn’t say what Louisiana’s standard should be but said a transmission rate of less than one would be encouraging while a rate of 2.5 to 3 would be dangerous.

“If it goes up, you pull back the reins,” said Cassidy, who is a doctor by trade.

Asked if the federal government is likely to issue more stimulus checks to individuals, Cassidy said he hoped it wouldn’t be necessary but he was “confident Congress will step forward” if the “economic lockdown” continued.

As of noon Friday, at least 1,601 Louisiana residents had been killed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, according to state health officials.

While the number of people on ventilators was up slightly compared to Thursday, hospitalizations were down. And for the first time, the Department of Health is beginning to report recoveries.

Of the 26,140 reported cases, 14,927 so far are “presumed recovered.” As defined by state officials, that means 14 days have elapsed since the patient’s positive test and they are not dead or in the hospital, or 21 days have elapsed without death if their hospital status is unknown.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “stay at home” order expires April 30. He said Louisiana remains on track for a “very gradual” reopening of sectors of the economy that currently are shut down or limited.

Edwards expects to announce some of the next steps early next week. He also stressed that data would drive his decisions and that people should continue to stay at home as much as possible and keep at least six feet of distance between themselves and others if they must go out.

During his appearance at Edwards’ briefing Friday, Cassidy made a point of thanking Edwards for his leadership during the crisis, though he also teased Edwards for standing a little too close at one point.

“We’re in different parties,” Cassidy said of Edwards, a Democrat, “but we represent the same state.”