NEW ORLEANS (AP) — More than 40,000 people filed new claims for unemployment in Louisiana last week as the coronavirus fight continued to pound the state’s economy, according to figures posted Thursday by state and federal labor officials.
For the comparable week last year, the figure was around 2,000. As of last week, more than 325,000 people qualified for unemployment benefits in the state, compared to 13,400 for the comparable week last year.
The state on Friday begins easing some of the business restrictions that have caused widespread unemployment. But the effects will be limited. Many businesses will be limited to 25% capacity and strict social distancing guidelines will be in place. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday signed the order moving the state into Phase One of its reopening.
The state reported Thursday that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Louisiana surpassed 33,400 — a one-day increase in reported numbers of more than 800. However, Edwards said the jump was due to another commercial lab reporting results for the first time.
“We had a new, large lab come on line today and reported for the very first time,” Edwards said during an online town hall streamed on thadvocate.com and nola.com. He said more than 600 of the new cases came from the lab and some of the cases actually date back to March.
Edwards also noted that the percentage of new cases relative to the number of tests continues to decline — a factor in his decision to begin easing stay-at-home restrictions.
More than 2,300 people in the state have died with the disease and more than 22,600 have recovered. Hospitalizations have been trending downward. They dipped below 1,200 this week after peaking at more than 2,100 in April.
More than 237,000 tests have been performed in the state to date.
Also Thursday, children’s rights advocates announced a lawsuit over conditions at four Louisiana juvenile justice facilities. It claims juvenile detainees are at risk during the pandemic and it seeks a review that could lead to the release of some.
The class action suit filed in federal court in Baton Rouge claims the state juvenile lockups hold young detainees under unconstitutional conditions, including unsanitary dormitories and, in some cases, improperly trained staff. The state has not filed a response.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.