Gov.: State will remain in Phase 3
After a Baton Rouge judge declined to temporarily block Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions, the governor announced he will extend Louisiana’s Phase 3 rules for another four weeks.
All current restrictions, including the mask mandate, will remain in place until at least Dec. 4, Edwards said.
“We do have areas of concern, particularly around increasing positivity,” Edwards said.
“That’s ...the first sign you’re on the road to increased cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
The decision was not unexpected. Louisiana is not expected to move beyond Phase 3 until a vaccine is widely available.
After a period of plateauing cases and hospitalizations, coronavirus trends are starting to rise slowly in Louisiana of late, though the state has not seen big increases like other Sun Belt states.
The governor, a Democrat, announced the move as he remains locked in a power struggle with Republican state House members, who late last month sent the governor a petition ordering him to end all of Louisiana’s coronavirus rules for a week.
That petition, using an obscure and never-before-used state law passed during the SARS pandemic, directs the governor to issue an emergency order ending his restrictions.
That would mean Louisiana, which has long had an outsized number of cases and deaths compared to its population, would have no mask mandate, social distancing requirements at businesses or limits on large gatherings.
Sixty-five of the 68 House Republicans signed the petition ordering the governor to end the virus restrictions.
The governor has refused to comply, calling the petition “reckless” and unconstitutional. He filed suit in the 19th Judicial District Court against House Speaker Clay Schexnayder asking Judge William Morvant to declare the petition null and void.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican who is defending the House in court, has filed his own suit asking the judge to compel Edwards to comply with the petition. He also asked Morvant to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the governor from issuing new coronavirus rules until he comes into compliance with the petition.
The judge has rejected that argument and set a Nov. 12 Zoom hearing in the case.
Republican lawmakers, especially in the state House, have complained the governor hasn’t loosened restrictions more. In particular, many are seeking loosened rules on high school football, which Edwards partly acquiesced to last month by allowing up to 50 percent capacity at games.
But the governor also vetoed the main bill passed narrowly by Republicans in a special legislative session last month to usurp some of his executive power.
The bill, by Rep. Mark Wright, would have allowed lawmakers to strip out parts of his coronavirus restrictions that they don’t like. Schexnayder rallied the Republican delegation in the House to sign onto the petition — long considered a nuclear option that may not hold up in court — on the last day of the special session, anticipating that veto.