Gov. Edwards: Louisiana residents should not expect major changes every two weeks to COVID restrictions

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WDSU) — Gov. John Bel Edwards held his biweekly coronavirus news conference Thursday where he addressed the latest COVID-19 data.

According to Gov. Edwards, Louisiana now leads the nation in COVID-19 cases per capita.

Edwards said health officials believe there are currently 38,000 active positive cases of the coronavirus in the state.

According to Edwards, Louisiana health officials are very concerned about the state’s positivity rate.

Louisiana’s positivity rate is currently at 14%, and the goal is to be below 10%, according to Edwards.

Edwards is expected meet with health officials Monday and Tuesday to review the latest data. He said that data will determine if any changes to restrictions will be made.

According to Edwards, the data does not call for any changes at this time, and he told residents not to expect any major changes every two weeks to restrictions.

Edwards said in July, the state has tested over 500,000 people for COVID-19.

Here is Thursday’s COVID-19 update from the Louisiana Department of Health:

  • 114,481 cases
  • 3,811 deaths
  • More than 74,000 presumed recovered
  • 1,524 hospitalized, 205 on ventilators
  • 1,317,390 commercial tests completed and reported to the state

Last week, Edwards said hospitals in Louisiana were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and Acadian Medical Center are having to pause non-emergency surgeries to make room for COVID-19 patients.

Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge will also be pausing elective surgeries.

According to Edwards, this move is happening at hospitals across Louisiana.

Doctors who were present at the press conference also said that some beds remain unused because of a staffing shortage.

According to Edwards, the state has reached out to neighboring states requesting nursing help, but those states cannot afford to send away their nurses either.

Edwards stressed that he does not want to take the state back to phase one, but the only thing keeping the state from moving backward is residents not wearing their masks.

Gov. Edwards announced on July 11 a mandatory mask requirement for Louisiana and ordered bars in the state closed to on-premises consumption.

Edwards also limited indoor social gatherings like wedding receptions, class reunions and parties to 50 total people.

During the news conference, Edwards also addressed people spreading misinformation about Louisiana’s COVID-19 data.

According to Edwards, some people have spread inaccurate information stating that Louisiana is counting duplicate tests in the COVID-19 data.

Edwards said this information is false and dangerous, and distracts from the seriousness of the pandemic.

PHASE TWO UPDATE:

On Tuesday, he announced that the state will remain in phase 2 as hospitalizations continue to rise statewide.

Louisiana will remain in phase 2 until Aug. 7 starting Friday, according to Edwards.

REOPENING SCHOOLS:

Edwards said the goal is to get children back into the classroom safely.

Edwards stressed that schools would have to be ready to open schools in whatever phase the state is in.

According to Edwards, he cannot predict what phase Louisiana will be in by the time schools are set to reopen.

Edwards said that the data will determine when and how schools reopen in August.

RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM:

Edwards announced that Louisiana’s Rental Assistance Program had to be shut down because over 40,000 people applied for the program.

According to Edwards, the $24 million allocated to launch the program could only provide assistance to about 7,500 people.

He said the state had no choice but to end the application process and that the state was currently looking through applicants that already applied to see if they actually qualify for the funding.

Edwards said he hopes there will be additional funding to reopen the program again.

MASK MANDATE:
The statewide mask mandate applies to all 64 parishes in Louisiana. However, parishes with a COVID-19 incidence of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people for the most recent two-week period for which data is available could choose to opt out of the mandate. Parish presidents do not have to opt out and may choose to keep a mask mandate in place. Currently, only three parishes in Louisiana do not exceed this standard, which will be updated every other week by the Louisiana Department of Health: Grant, Red River and West Feliciana.

The order requires face coverings for everyone age 8 and older except for the following:

  • Anyone who has a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face covering.
  • Anyone who is consuming a drink or food.
  • Anyone who is trying to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired.
  • Anyone who is giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience.
  • Anyone temporarily removing his or her face covering for identification purposes.
  • Anyone who is a resident of a parish without a high COVID incidence that has opted out of the masking mandate.

Masks are strongly recommended for children ages 2 to 7.

CLOSURE OF BARS TO ALL ON-PREMISES CONSUMPTION:

All bars, including those with food permits from the Louisiana Department of Health, will be closed to on-premises consumption. They can operate for curbside takeout or delivery service only.

Since the start of the crisis, Louisiana has identified at least 36 outbreaks impacting at least 405 people involving bars, which were actually closed under the governor’s original stay-at-home order. Public health officials believe going to bars is a higher public health risk than visiting other types of businesses because people are socializing and cannot wear masks when they drink. In addition, young people under the age of 30 make up the largest percentage of new COVID cases in Louisiana.

GATHERING SIZE:
The new order also limits the size of social gatherings to 50 people indoors. Outdoor social gatherings are also limited to 50 people if individuals cannot avoid being within 6 feet of one another.

This crowd size limitation shall not apply to those businesses deemed essential as defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or any businesses and organizations operating at 50% capacity pursuant to Paragraphs (1) through (6) of Subsection (G) of Section 2 of 83 JBE 2020, including churches and other faith-based organizations.

The 50-person limit will apply to indoor gatherings, like receptions, weddings and others. The changes are based on the advice of public health officials.

Click here to read the proclamation.

For the second day in a row, Louisiana saw COVID-19 cases increase by more than 2,000.

As of the noon update Saturday, there were 2,167 new cases reported.

There are now a total of 76,803 cases since reporting began.

By: WDSU Digital Team

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