Almost all of Louisiana's state parks, plus 18 historical sites, will be open to Louisiana citizens starting Saturday, said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser at Wednesday's press briefing.
That's good news, but it's important to accept that Phase I is a gradual, deliberate reopening, he said. Residents will all have to change behaviors to protect themselves, said Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary of Health for the Louisiana Office of Public Health.
"This is not a return to life before COVID," he said.
Billioux said everyone is asked to wear masks when they leave their home, continue to wash their hands, and continue to maintain social distancing - at least six feet between you and anyone who doesn't live with you. Things will not be back to normal for businesses and employees, either, and customers need to keep that in mind.
You need to wear your mask, and you shouldn't feel insulted if businesses ask you to, or ask if you've been ill or have a fever.
"That's to protect you," he said. "We should be glad that businesses are trying to protect us."
Even though things are opening up, it's still safer at home.
"You need to balance your own risk and ability to lower the risk of COVID with doing what you want to do," he said. "My advice is, don't do that every day. Stay at home as much as you can."
Nungesser said that three of the state parks, including Chicot State Park, are still being used to house symptomatic people, but work is underway to partially open those parks as well, Nungesser said.
All out-of-state bookings at those facilities are canceled through Phase I, he said.
"Only Louisiana residents can come to our state parks," he said.
If you make a reservation at a park, campsite or cabin, you can get one night free if you book three, he said. Just use the coupon code "welcomeback."
"Please follow all the guidelines," said Nungesser, who was wearing a Mardi Gras mask when he approached the podium. "We will be there to help you, but we also will also be there if we see large gatherings, to make sure we do this as safely as possible."
Gov. John Bel Edwards said more guidance coming on opensafely.la.gov for businesses as soon as it is finalized, and that should be very soon. It will definitely be before the new order takes effect on Friday, he said.
“As we broaden the category of businesses that can begin to re-open, there obviously are a lot of details that have to be worked out, and we’re working through some of that now as we go along,” Edwards said. “As we carefully move through the phased approach set forth through the President’s guidelines, we have to make a lot of decisions about balancing public safety on the one hand, and getting businesses back open and employees back to work on the other.”
You also can visit coronavirus.la.gov for more information, too, he said.
"As we make more contact with one another, the way you keep the cases down is to be a good neighbor, wear your mask, keep six feet between yourself and people not in your household, and engage in the hygiene practices we've talked about," he said.
People who are at risk should stay home as much as possible, and those who live with them or love them should keep in mind the risk they're exposed to, he said.
"Let's continue to help each other," he said.
Testing is continuing to increase, Edwards said, and plans are being formed to test all staff and residents in "congregate settings," which are nursing homes and facilities like that. These facilities have higher risk not only because there are a large number of people living and working together, but also because residents tend to have high rates of underlying medical conditions. Strike teams will be offered to help nursing home staff to test all residents and employees, he said. Some regions already are working with homes to ramp up testing, he said. The testing will have to be repeated periodically, he added.
Testing also will be ramped up in areas of the state that didn't have as much testing in the past, he said.
Contact tracing is another important piece of getting back open safely, the governor said. More than 2,000 people already have applied for those jobs, he said. The contractor hired to do that work is going through the applications now, he said.
People shouldn't be surprised or upset if they get a call from a contact tracer; they will be able to give you good information about how to manage your risk and what you can do to protect yourself.
One of the questions from the public Monday was why tattoo parlors weren't included in the list of businesses allowed to start opening up.
Billioux explained that the process followed to select the types of businesses chosen to reopen was that of Johns Hopkins, which has two factors: the number of contacts, the intensity of the contact, and the ability to modify the contact to increase safety.
"There are just some settings that are inherently more risky than others," Edwards added, when asked why bars weren't included in the re-opening order.
Bars with a restaurant can re-open, but they have to function as restaurants. All patrons must be seated at tables, there's no standing, and the social distancing requirements on restaurants will have to be followed, he said.
It's important to accept that Phase I is a gradual, deliberate reopening, he said. Residents will all have to change behaviors to protect themselves, he added.
"This is not a return to life before COVID," he said.
The governor announced Monday that Louisiana would enter in to Phase One of reopening beginning on Saturday, May 16. The stay-at-home order, which was extended in April, will expire on Friday, May 15.
Phase One will allow restaurants, churches, bars (with food licenses) gyms, barbershops, casinos and movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity from the State Fire Marshal. Businesses can sign up for detailed information and immediate updates from the Fire Marshal here.
To read more on what Phase One will look like for businesses in Louisiana: Phase I - What exactly does that mean?
The Vermilion Economic Development Alliance also offers tips for businesses here.
On May 13, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 32,662 confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state. This includes 612 additional cases than were reported yesterday.
A total of 2,315 people have died of the disease in Louisiana. This includes 34 more deaths than were reported yesterday. The spike in numbers is due to new labs coming on board and reporting all their results at once. To read about that, click here.
Edwards also addressed that.
"We have three labs that are reporting for the first time today," he said. "They have results that go back several weeks, but they're being reported today. If you take those cases out of the mix, there are 295 out of the 612 that are really new."
State health officials are working with labs to report results electronically on a daily basis, so this kind of thing doesn't happen, he said.
The LDH reports that 1,320 people are hospitalized and that 146 require ventilators.
On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 22,608 coronavirus patients in Louisiana are "presumed recovered."
LDH updates their numbers each day at noon.
To see the latest numbers and a breakdown by parish, click here.
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