Governor OKs move to Phase 3
Louisiana will move out of Phase 2 of reopening when the governor’s latest extension expires Friday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that the state will advance into a new phase of reopening the economy.
The state, which has been in Phase 2 of the coronavirus recovery for nearly three and a half months, will advance into Phase 3, which places fewer restrictions on businesses, albeit with a mask mandate still firmly in place.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve had to make thus far based on activities that have taken place here recently,” Edwards said.
The opening of schools, Hurricane Laura and Labor Day gatherings were mentioned specifically. Any spike in cases likely will not show up in the daily reported tests for a week or more.
“I’m going to be really anxious for the next couple or three weeks,” the governor said. “If we are going to be successful and not have to move back ... we need everybody to understand that this is not a lifting of all restrictions. We need people to continue to do their part, and that includes mask wearing, staying 6 feet apart, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick and reducing activities.
“The safest place will always be your home.”
The CDC guidelines for Phase 3 allow workplaces to begin operations with unrestricted staffing, allow visitors to return to senior care facilities and large venues like theaters, sporting venues and churches with limited physical distancing.
The CDC’s Phase 3 guidelines also allow bars to increase standing room occupancy and vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions with physical distancing and face coverings.
However, Edwards said he would announced “the specifics” of the state’s move to Phase 3 on Friday.
Edwards extended the order to remain in Phase 2 two weeks ago amid the dual threats of hurricanes Marco and Laura that shut down testing centers and further delayed the reopening of schools.
According to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, a state can move into Phase 3 of reopening after seeing a downward trajectory of documented cases for at least 14 days in Phase 2. Louisiana entered Phase 2 in early June, but the state saw a rapid increase in cases in deaths starting a week later.
Since then, the state has reversed some easing of restrictions on bars in an effort to once again flatten the curve. The state has mostly seen a downward trajectory in average new cases reported since last month.
However, the CDC guidelines are only recommendations and the White House is encouraging each state to create its own phases of reopening with restrictions specific to their local needs.
The governor has been under increasing pressure from parishes such as St. Tammany and Jefferson to change the statewide mandate to a parish-by-parish mandate, however, as the Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate recently reported, the immediate outlook for those two parishes being granted more leniency in COVID rules would not be great based on recent testing results.
Edwards is also undoubtedly aware that high school football has decided to move forward with playing games and that the New Orleans Saints expect to seat fans — how many is still uncertain — for its second game on Sept. 27.
That will be one day after LSU football opens its 2020 season.
The stakes are high. The state is approaching 5,000 deaths from the coronavirus, but at the same time, there are daily headlines of businesses closing because of the limited conditions.