Edwards: Don’t expect big changes to COVID-19 restrictions anytime soon

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana residents should not expect major changes to the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures when the current executive order expires next week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.

Bars across the state are closed, while other types of businesses are restricted to half of their normal capacity. Crowd sizes are limited and face coverings are required inside businesses and other public buildings and outdoors when maintaining distance from people who are not part of your household is not possible.

Business owners have sued to lift some of the restrictions and some Republican lawmakers have called for the governor’s emergency order to be overturned, citing the economic damage. Some lawmakers and business owners also argue the restrictions violate their constitutional rights.

State officials will do a “deep dive” into the state’s COVID-related statistics before making a decision, he said. But Edwards said the mask mandate in particular is part of the “new normal” and likely won’t be lifted anytime soon.

The current order expires a week from Friday. Edwards plans to issue a new order next Thursday.

Louisiana remains first in the nation for confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita, officials say. The state has an estimated 38,000 active cases, not counting the 25 to 40 percent of cases where the infected person has no symptoms and therefore hasn’t been tested, Edwards said.

The number of COVID patients hospitalized and on ventilators has declined in recent days, though Edwards said he would “need to see it continue over a number of days before we can say it’s a trend.”

At last check, the proportion of tests coming back positive was above 10 percent in every region of the state and was above 14 percent statewide, he said. Officials would prefer to see that number below 10 percent.

Also in every region of the state, the average number of people infected by a given COVID patient is greater than one, which also is a key metric in measuring the spread of the disease, Edwards said.

As of noon Thursday, at least 3,811 Louisiana residents with COVID-19 had died, state officials reported. There were 1,524 patients in hospitals and 205 were on ventilators.

More than 114,000 confirmed cases have been reported, and officials believe more than 74,000 of those patients have recovered.