The people of Louisiana need to prepare themselves for any change in the stay-at-home order by keeping their expectations realistic, Gov. John Bel Edwards said today.
"I want people to have their expectations in check because Phase I is a very gradual relaxation of restrictions," he said. "It's not like we'll be going back to where we were before. When we meet the threshold criteria, we will be able to go to Phase I accompanied by robust testing and contact tracing."
Louisiana needs to be able to conduct about 200,000 tests per month. To move to Phase I, the federal requirement is about 150,000 per month, he said. Any move beyond Phase I will require higher testing capacity, he explained.
In addition, most of the limits in place now - wearing masks, social distancing, hygiene - will remain in place, he said.
When asked about Texas, where masks have become mandatory, with threats of fines and jail time for those who refuse, Edwards said it's not his "inclination to start arresting members of the public for not wearing a mask, even though I'm absolutely asking everyone to do that."
He said he does expect there to be requirements for businesses that want to open to the public in the new order that will start May 1.
"If you want to run a business, and want the public to come in, then your workers ought to be in a mask," he said. "That is more likely to be in the order than is a requirement that the public wear masks."
Edwards citizens need to exercise common sense and protect themselves and others, and that means wearing masks in public.
"We're planning to move forward in Louisiana if we meet the threshold criteria to move into Phase I. We've still got a ways to go. The current order expires on April 30. It would be nice to move into Phase I on May 1, and we're going to continue to move in that direction," Edwards said. "Early next week, I have to tell the people of the Louisiana what to expect at the end of that week.
"At the very least, our cases are flat and have been for a number of days, and it appears we've pretty much plateaued on the daily reports of deaths. But we intend to move forward in a way that is smart and protects public health while restarting our economy."
As hurricane season approaches, it's even more important to plan ahead because of how COVID-19 has impacted and will impact our state, Edwards added.
Edwards said two people died in the severe storms last night, and thousands more suffered damage and are without power. There was damage in Alexandria, including some damage at the megashelter there. He said repairs are going to have to happen quickly to ensure it can be used after hurricane season starts.
"I know people have a lot on their minds already, and I encourage all Louisianians to pay attention to the weather today and going forward. Make sure you have yourself where you can monitor for warnings," Edwards said. "We've had lots of inquiries about what we’re doing to be sure we’re intentional and deliberate about how we approach this hurricane season, because our posture this year is very different."
Edwards said state emergency officials are planning and will have some exercises to work through the possibilities. He encouraged citizens to do some planning to, and visit this website for advice.
As of noon on April 23 the Louisiana Department of Health reported 25,739 confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state. This is 481 more cases than were reported yesterday.
A total of 1,540 people have died of the disease in Louisiana. This is 67 more deaths than were reported yesterday. As of April 23, the LDH reports 59 probable COVID-19 deaths.
LDH reported COVID-19 patients in hospitals are at 1,727, which is 20 fewer hospitalizations than yesterday.
LDH reported that 274 patients are on ventilators, which is 13 fewer patients than were reported yesterday.
The Louisiana Department of Health updates their numbers each day at noon.
To see the latest numbers from LDH, click here.
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