Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana's numbers don't meet the White House criteria for re-opening, and so the stay-at-home order will be extended through May 15.
Louisiana has avoided over-loading the health care system, but the numbers aren't good enough to meet the federal criteria to start re-opening, he said.
"This isn’t the message I had hoped to deliver," Edwards said.
However, after a Sunday spent pouring over data with epidemiologists and medical experts, Edwards said Louisiana doesn't have consistent decreases in new cases, a requirement of the White House's re-opening guidelines.
"My hope was that we would take bigger steps toward reopening and taking more steps toward normalcy than I will announce today," Edwards said.
There are some changes coming in the new order, he said.
Under the extended order, which will be issued on Friday, May 1, businesses that previously were directed to be closed will remain closed, including salons, barber shops, bars and casinos, among other things. Businesses that are deemed essential under the third phase of federal CISA guidance may still be open. Non-essential retail businesses in Louisiana continue to be able to open with fewer than 10 people total inside.
Three major changes in the new Stay at Home order include:
- Malls will remain closed to the public, but stores may open for curbside delivery.
- Restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for patrons to eat meals only, without tableside service.
- All employees of a business who have contact with the public must wear a mask.
Additionally, both the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly urge everyone to wear masks when in public.
"Look, the people of Louisiana are strong and it is through their actions, through their patience, their determination that we’ve been able to make substantial progress. We are moving in the right direction and by taking the stay-at-home order seriously, we are well on our way to entering the next phase of re-opening," Edwards said. "We’re much closer to phase 1 than we would be, obviously. I hope everyone takes these next two weeks to adjust to the new normal, and to make or buy a face covering. Remember, a mask protects those around you."
Edwards showed a chart that identified the problem areas. Under the White House re-opening guidelines, a state must show decreasing numbers in several areas over a 14-day period. In Louisiana, cases are increasing in Baton Rouge, Acadiana and Monroe, and hospitalizations are increasing in Baton Rouge and Monroe.
These problem areas correlate with cell phone data that shows people in these areas are not following the stay-at-home order, officials say.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody who wants to reopen the economy more than I do. But I’m the only person charged by the Constitution to be the decision maker and weigh public health on one hand and the economy on the other and try to strike the right balance. And when you have to make those decisions, you look at the White House guidance, you look at the numbers, you talk to experts and you try to strike the right balance,” he said.
To the people who are frustrated, he had a message:
“I share your frustration. There’s nothing about this that’s easy. I’d much rather come out here today and say we met all the criteria and we’re ready to move to Phase I. I think people would probably be disappointed when they saw just how measured Phase I relative to where we are right now,” he said. “But that’s just not where we are, and the one thing I refuse to do is fudge that. I’m not going to pretend that we’re better off than we are. I’m gratified that we’re in a much better place than we might have been.”
Edwards said he hopes to have better news by May 11. In the interim, some people may see other states opening up, but Louisiana experienced a spread of the virus faster than any of our neighbors, he said.
"I believe we have to be smart in re-opening up our economy, because if we're not it won't be good for public health or the economy - because we will have to slam on the brakes and I don't think that's what we want," he said.
For a time, Louisiana had the highest growth rate in the world and the second-highest infection rate in the country. Louisiana needs to ramp up testing capacity to avoid creating new hot spots, he said.
"Businesses and faith leaders should use this time, until we move into Phase I, should verify their occupancy and get ready to open up within these guidelines and engage in the social distancing that's going to be required, and to make sure their employees have the required masks as well," he said.
Under Phase I, businesses and churches will be able to welcome up to 25 percent of their occupancy back into their buildings.
During the briefing, the governor is expected to make an announcement regarding the state's stay-at-home order.
As of today at noon, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 27,068 confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state. This is 295 more cases than were reported yesterday.
A total of 1,697 people have died of the disease in Louisiana. This is 27 more deaths than were reported yesterday. As of April 27, the LDH reports 43 probable COVID-19 deaths.
There are now 17,303 "presumed recovered" cases in the state. According to LDH, a person is presumed recovered if : 1) it has been more than 14 days, since he/she tested positive and he/she is not currently in the hospital or deceased (when hospital status is known), or 2) it has been more than 21 days, since he/she tested positive and he/she is not deceased (when hospital status is unknown). Presumed recovered counts will be updated weekly.
There are 1,683 people hospitalized with 262 of those on ventilators.
For the latest from LDH, click here.
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