BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As more businesses around Louisiana reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed concern Wednesday that too many people are ignoring public health officials’ continued calls for precautions when visiting restaurants, grocery stores and group gatherings.
The Democratic governor intensified his pleas for people to wear face coverings and stay distanced when they leave their homes and interact with others outside of their households. He said too many people have interpreted his loosening of restrictions on businesses to mean that the virus outbreak is over.
“If the problem was gone, we wouldn’t ease restrictions. We would remove restrictions,” Edwards said. “If we let our guard down, we can easily see those cases start to rise.”
More than 44,000 cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus have been confirmed in Louisiana, according to the state health department, and 2,855 people have died. The state says nearly 34,000 people have recovered from COVID-19, and the daily increase in deaths and positive tests has dropped significantly from the height of Louisiana’s outbreak in April.
Still, Edwards and his chief public health adviser, Alex Billioux with the state health department, cautioned that case growth and hospitalization numbers were concerning in the Monroe, Lake Charles and Alexandria regions.
For most people, the highly contagious coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.
The governor said he’s had several encounters in recent days with people who have asked him if he thinks the virus is “going to come back this fall.”
“Well, it hasn’t left,” Edwards said. “We’re having a conversation that’s inconsistent with the facts. We just need to get everybody grounded with the situation.”
Many state lawmakers have stopped wearing masks at the Louisiana Capitol. As Edwards was speaking, the Senate announced a Wednesday evening shrimp boil at Senate President Page Cortez’s apartment. Asked about the announcement, Edwards said he hoped lawmakers would find a way to gather safely.