BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana will transition to Phase II on Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
The governor says he will sign the proclamation on Thursday that will have the details; it will expire in three weeks, when the situation will be reviewed again.
In a general sense, the key differences are higher percentage of occupancy will be allowed for businesses, and some businesses - like day spas and tattoo establishments - will now be allowed to open.
But it doesn't mean that social distancing, hand-washing and masks can stop; there's still no vaccine and people have to continue to try to limit the spread of the virus and to avoid getting it and/or spreading it to vulnerable people, he said.
"There's still risk involved. There's no way for me to stand up here and say that, if everything operations just as we prescribe it, everything is safe," he said.
Edwards encouraged people to avoid businesses that won't comply with risk mitigation. That decision should include an analysis of your own vulnerabilities, and how much contact you have with vulnerable people, he said.
Every region of the state is not doing equally well, he said, but there are fewer hot spots than there have been. Contact tracing and increased testing will help keep an eye on those spots.
"Louisiana is headed in the right direction, but there's still a lot of COVID-19 in Louisiana, it's in every community in the state, so we still have work to do," he said. "We still have restrictions that must stay in place. We're not going to be fully back to normal for some time, not, likely, until we have a vaccine."
The state did exceed the goal of 200,000 tests in May; more than 206,000 tests were administered, he said. That exceeds the CDC goal to test at least 2 percent of the population monthly, Edwards said.
Louisiana is now 10th in the nation for per-capita cases of COVID-19. At worst, the state was second in the nation for that number.
Dr. Alex Billioux, an internist who is Assistant Secretary of Health for the Louisiana Department of Health's Office of Public Health, presented the details of the data that led to the Governor's decision.
He also provided some details of what Phase II will look like. Social distancing is still vital; that means maintaining a six-foot distance between you and anyone who doesn't live in your house.
Using masks is also vital, he said, because the way that most people get COVID is from another person's breath, he said. Washing you hands frequently, and staying at home as much as you can, will also help slow the spread, he said.
The 25 percent of occupancy for businesses will be relaxed, but the six-foot distance still will have to be managed, he said.
Businesses that can now open include day spas, tattoo establishments, some recreational facilities. Here's the slide about that from Billioux's talk:
In his discussion of how the data looks, Billioux said that cases are decreasing, the number of patients presenting to emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms is decreasing, and the rate of deaths and hospitalization also is decreasing, Billioux said.
There still are areas of concern, he said.
The regions that still are problematic are New Orleans, Lake Charles, Monroe and the North Shore, he said.
The state and its partners in medical and educational sectors are working to increase testing, especially in vulnerable populations, he said. That will bring an increase in positive tests, because more people are being tested. So the number of new cases has to be balanced with the number of tests, he said.
Despite the promising trends, people must continue to engage in the preventative measures that work - stay home if you're sick, wear a mask in public, maintain six-foot distances.
Increasing cases in Monroe is a concern, although hospitals are not overwhelmed yet, he said. There's also a rise in cases in the Alexandria area, he said. That means more testing, encouraging the use of mitigation measures and contact tracing.
For information about how contact tracing works, and what you can expect if you are contacted by a tracer, click here. Contact tracing is a method of managing infectious disease that has been used by health providers for decades.
Officials warn citizens to be on guard for scammers posting as tracers; if anyone contacts you, claims to be a contact tracers but starts to ask for personal information, hang up.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the number of COVID-19 cases in Louisiana increased by 425, the number of deaths increased by four as of June 1.
The number of cases in the state is now at 40,341. This is 425 more cases than were reported on Sunday.
A total of 2,690 people have died of the disease in Louisiana as of Monday. This includes four more deaths than were reported yesterday.
The LDH is reporting that 31,728 coronavirus patients are "presumed recovered," which is updated weekly.
The LDH reports that 661 people are hospitalized and that 86 require ventilators.
You can read more about the LDH's COVID-19 numbers here.
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