By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday he will extend Louisiana’s “stay at home” order with some changes until May 15 in hopes of slowing the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Louisiana does not currently meet the White House criteria for entering phase one of reopening currently limited sectors of the economy, he said.
While Louisiana has seen improving trends statewide in terms of new case growth and new hospitalizations in several regions across the state, new cases and hospitalizations continue to increase or to plateau, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health. The White House criteria calls for declining numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, among other factors, to lift restrictions.
“Thanks to the commitment of the people of Louisiana, our state has made progress in flattening the curve and reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, we still have a little work to do before we meet the criteria to safely move to the next phase of reopening, so I will extend the state’s Stay at Home order until May 15, with a few minor changes,” Edwards said. “While this is not the announcement I want to make, I am hopeful, and all of Louisiana should be hopeful, that we will enter into the next phase of reopening soon, in mid-May. I am anxious to get all areas of our economy reopened, but if we accelerate too quickly, we may have to slam on the brakes. That will be bad for public health and for businesses, bad for our people and bad for our state.”
Edwards said his decision is based on regional data that shows that while overall new cases and hospitalizations have decreased, this is not the case in several regions. In the greater Baton Rouge and Monroe regions, both new cases and new hospitalizations have increased. Some increases of new cases have been seen in Acadiana and a plateau for hospitalizations in southwest Louisiana and a plateau of new cases on the Northshore near New Orleans, Edwards said.
Under the extended order, which will be issued on Friday, businesses that previously were directed to be closed will remain closed, including salons, barber shops, bars and casinos, among others. Businesses that are deemed essential under the third phase of federal guidance may still be open. Non-essential retail businesses in Louisiana continue to be able to open with fewer than 10 people total inside.
Three changes in the new order include:
Malls will remain closed to the public, but stores may open for curbside delivery.
Restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for patrons to eat meals only, without tableside service.
All employees of a business who have contact with the public must wear a mask.
Both the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health “strongly urge everyone to wear masks when in public,” Edwards’ office said. “Hopefully, Louisiana will meet the White House criteria and move to Phase 1 on May 15, provided symptoms, new case counts and hospitalizations decrease and the state continues to surge testing and contact tracing capacity.”
In phase one, the “stay at home” order would be lifted and restrictions on some public spaces like houses of worship and restaurants and businesses that have been closed such as barber shops and salons would be allowed to reopen with restrictions on occupancy and strict requirements for personal distancing and masks to keep everyone safe. Occupancy for such businesses would be limited to 25 percent.
“Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana families continue to suffer each day we delay reopening the state’s economy,” said Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the fiscally conservative Pelican Institute for Public Policy. “It’s past time to get Louisiana working, and we strongly urge the Governor and all of our elected officials to treat the worsening jobs and economic crisis with the same urgency as the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.”
There are no absolute right or wrong answers that dictate when the state should fully reopen the economy, he says. But “countless workers and families are suffering, and we need to get Louisianans safely back to work as soon as possible.”