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Edwards: Numbers show decision to stay in Phase II was the right one

Gov. Edwards
Posted at 12:51 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 17:22:43-04

The numbers since Monday show that the decision to stay in Phase II was the right one, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday at his briefing.

KATC is live streaming the 3:30 pm press conference on KATC, KATC.com and the KATC Facebook page.

"This trend we're seeing over the last couple of days is concerning. Simply put, we're heading in the wrong direction," he said.

After having been as high as number two in the nation with per-capita positives, then dropping down to 10, Louisiana is back up several spots, to number seven, he said.

The state's continued Phase II status might not last 28 days, Edwards said. The data will be examined constantly to determine when we can move to Phase III, he said. But so far, the numbers are not going in the right direction.

The cases among young people are growing, he said.

"Nobody is immune," he said. "Everyone who is infected is at risk for a poor outcome."

Testing is increasing, but the percentage of positives also is increasing, and the cases are not related to congregate living places, like nursing homes. That means there is community spread, the governor said.

On the topic of nursing homes, the governor provided an update: As of June 22, LDH has conducted more than 500 infection control assessment visits. As of June 19, 85 percent of residents were tested, and 70 percent of staff had been tested, he said. They all must be tested by June 30, and repeat tests must be done by July 15, he said.

The Region 5 medical director, Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, gave a report on her area, which includes Lake Charles and the parishes of Allen, Beauregard, Cameron and Jeff Davis.

She said COVID-19 is a challenge, especially given so much we have to learn about it. She said it is encouraging that people are asking what they should do, and when to get tested, and that businesses are being transparent and closing to protect their staff and customers.

"Now is not the time to freak out, but it is the time to get serious about evaluating our personal behaviors, and that includes wearing a mask," she said. "I know they're uncomfortable, I know they're hot, I was sweating in my mask on my way over here, but I did it anyway. I did it for my family."

Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer, addressed some common myths about masks.

First, it's not true that a cloth mask doesn't work. Everything you do to make sure that you're not close to someone, and wearing a face covering, helps protect you and others, he said. There are many tests that show the masks work.

"There are disbelievers, but we know they work," he said. "They're one part of what we need to do, but they're an important part."

People who aren't sick say they don't need to wear a mask. But you can be infected, spreading virus, and not have any symptoms, he said.

"With all this testing, we're proving that over and over again," he said.

Wearing a mask means you don't have to avoid large groups or practice social distancing.

The other myth is that you don't need a covering over your nose. Guidry says he sees people all the time wearing a mask "like a chin strap."

Anything that comes out of your nose or mask can carry infection, he said.

"We've said this over and over again, but we see what happens when people don't take this seriously, or they let their guard down, because they want things to go back to normal," Guidry said.

When people don't follow the rules, it's a danger to health and the economy, he said.

"We have businesses that were closed for months now having to close again, because people will not wear masks," Guidry said.

Under the governor's emergency health orders, masks are mandatory for all employees of businesses who deal with the public. They are not optional. There also are limits on occupancy for each business. You can read about the details here.

"We've said it so many times, over and over, and I know people are tired of hearing it, but the fact of the matter is, more people need to listen," Edwards said.

So many people say they feel fine and see no reason to take precautions, Edwards said. That misses the point, because you can spread the virus when you feel fine.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health was reporting 52,477 coronavirus cases in the state, an increase of 882 cases from Tuesday. An additional 18 deaths were also reported, bringing the state total to 3,039.

The governor's office says that 93 percent of Wednesday's cases were from community spread.

In a press conference on June 22, Governor Edwards announced that Louisiana would not be moving into Phase III as originally planned. The recent increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations forced a postponement.

"It goes without saying this is not the direction we want to go in," he said. "A lot of people out there are saying they are done with this virus. Well, the virus isn't done with us."

Louisiana will remain in Phase II for another 26 days while state officials examine all data. An update on the numbers will be given in about two weeks as recommended by the President's COVID-19 Task Force.

Edwards said he had hoped the state would have entered Phase III by the end of this week, but that the numbers just aren't there.

The governor also mentioned that he believed school will open on time, but "it won't look like it did."

To see more from Monday's press conference: Edwards: Numbers force postponement of Phase III

To see the latest number from the Louisiana Department of Health and a breakdown of numbers by parish, click here.

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