Gov. Edwards signs order moving Louisiana to Phase One on May 15

BATON ROUGE, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – It’s official: Louisiana’s stay-at-home is ending on Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards formally declared that Louisiana will enter into Phase One of its “Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana” plan on May 15, when the stay-at-home will be lifted and more businesses will be allowed to open with some restrictions amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Though Louisiana residents will no longer be under a stay-at-home order, Edwards still urged citizens to stay at home “as much as possible” to avoid unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, especially those most vulnerable, which includes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

“Thanks to the hard work of the people of Louisiana under the Stay at Home order, we have seen declining new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Edwards said in a statement Thursday night. “This, coupled with increased testing and contact tracing capacity, is what is allowing us to move to Phase One on Friday.

“This is not ‘mission accomplished’ or a victory against COVID-19, but it is a positive and hopeful move for Louisiana.”

Louisiana has been under stay-at-home orders since March 22, less than two weeks after the first case was reported in the state March 9. Since the outbreak of the virus in the U.S., Louisiana has ranked near the top in the number of cases and deaths per capita.

Edwards made the announcement to lift the stay-at-home order on Monday, saying that the decision was made after consultation with epidemiologists from the Office of Public Health as well as other health officials and professionals across the state.

In order to move into Phase One of the White House’s reopening plan, a state must see downward trends in people reporting COVID-like symptoms to emergency rooms, new cases, and new hospitalizations over a two-week period.

The governor said Louisiana met “the threshold criteria.”

Louisiana will now move into Phase One of the White House’s reopening plan, which will expand the types of businesses that can now operate and the specific types of businesses that are limited to 25 percent of occupancy and require strict social distancing.

Phase One guidance will allow essential businesses as defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), to remain open. Non-essential businesses (sometimes called “gray area” businesses) and churches may remain open at 25 percent of their occupancy.

Further, churches and restaurants, cafes and coffee shops may continue to conduct outdoor service not limited by 25 percent of indoor capacity so long as strict social distancing is practiced. All business owners should read the order to understand which category their business falls into.

New types of businesses that may open beginning on May 15, with 25 percent occupancy limits, sanitation guidelines and spacing for physical distancing include:

— Restaurants, cafes and coffee shops

— Shopping malls

— Gyms and fitness centers

— Barber and beauty shops, and nail salons

— Movie theaters

— Racetracks (not open to spectators)

— Museums, zoos, aquariums (no tactile exhibits)

— Bars and breweries with LDH food permits

“While this is a step forward for our state, I want to encourage the public and business owners to proceed cautiously and to take the necessary steps to protect themselves,” Edwards said in a statement, “including wearing a protective face covering like a cloth mask when they are in public, keeping social distance from people outside of their households and practicing good hygiene.”

David Gray | The News

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