BATON ROUGE, La. — During a press conference on Thursday morning, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that the state would enter Phase 3 on Friday, September 11.
The state's current Phase 2 order is set to expire on Friday.
"The data is positive enough that we will be going into Phase 3 tomorrow," said Edwards.
The governor said that he would be traveling to Vernon, Allen and Cameron Parishes after the conference to inspect storm damage, and would have more details about the Phase 3 proclamation on Friday.
Edwards did say that Phase 3 is not a lifting of all statewide restrictions and is not an announcement that COVID-19 is not still present in the state.
And during the question and answer portion of the press conference, Edwards said that he intends to keep the statewide mask mandate in the next proclamation.
Edwards also revealed Thursday's COVID-19 numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health, which is reporting 499 additional cases, 21 new deaths, 762 patients in hospitals and 125 on ventilators.
Edwards said he used the same gating criteria set forth by the White House and looked at numbers and data over the last two weeks for the decision to move to Phase 3.
"This is probably the hardest decision I've had to make with regard to COVID-19," said Edwards. He added that he is still anxious about numbers from the Labor Day Weekend and schools across the state resuming classes.
He said that residents should continue to wear their mask, wash their hands and stay home when they are sick.
Edwards said that he hopes things do not go backward with regard to COVID-19 cases in the state, but if they do then he would act quickly. He said that as flu season approaches his team will monitor hospital capacity around the state to make sure that it doesn't risk being overrun again.
Edwards also commented on Dr. Alex Billioux's announcement Wednesday that he will be stepping down as Assistant Secretary of LDH. Edwards thanked Billioux for his work there for the last two years and over the last six months of the pandemic.
Edwards also gave a response on recovery efforts after Hurricane Laura and warned that heat is still a major factor for people trying to clean up their homes and businesses.
There are now 28 confirmed deaths related to Hurricane Laura with many of them from heat-related causes.
The governor also announced that Union and Morehouse Parishes have been added to the list of those qualifying for individual assistance from FEMA, which now includes a total of 18 parishes.
There are now about 6,000 homeowner that have registered for Operation Blue Roof from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The program provides homeowners with free contractor-installed sheeting on the roof of their home if it was damaged during the storm. The deadline for the program is Sept. 21. Homeowners can call 888-ROOF-BLU (776-3258) for more details.
DSNAP benefits have begun as of Thursday, Sept. 10, for residents in the 18 parishes with widespread power outages and other storm damage. The DSNAP enrollment is available virtually by visiting DCFS.La.Gov or by texting LADSNAP to 898-211. The deadline to sign up is Oct. 8.
SNAP recipients will also receive a three month extension for the deadline for their benefits along with a COVID-19 supplement on Sept. 18 to bring them up to the maximum.
As of 6 a.m. Thursday, there are still 12,886 Louisianans sheltered in 46 hotels across the state with the majority of them in New Orleans and Shreveport. Several thousand more are also being sheltered in Texas hotels. For more details on sheltering, text LASHELTER to 898-211.
To see the latest coronavirus numbers in the state, click here.
You can watch the full press conference below:
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