NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has mulled rules for possibly getting more businesses open next month amid coronavirus pandemic fears, he has so far rejected suggestions that he use a parish-by-parish approach.
A proposed “framework” for reopening issued this week by nearly 50 local and state business groups also discourages the approach.
“Variation in local measures related to public health and safety poses significant challenges, particularly for multi-jurisdictional employers that are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation,” said the report issued by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber on behalf of the groups.
Still, as similar discussions take place around the world, some officials chafe at the idea of a statewide-only approach. Media reports in Lafayette say some local officials there want Edwards to adopt a parish-by-parish approach. And Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, the leader of the Senate’s GOP delegation, has posted an online petition calling for Edwards, a Democrat, to adopt a parish-by-parish approach.
Louisiana’s emergency stay-at-home orders and bans on gatherings of more than 10 people are set to expire April 30. Edwards is expected to announce as early as Monday how the state might begin to re-open the economy if certain benchmarks in White House guidance are met. Those involve the growth in cases, hospitalizations and the number of people reported with certain symptoms within a 14-day period.
The White House plan, which proposes criteria and methods for a phased-in approach to reopening, states that it is “implementable on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.” But Edwards said he’s not inclined to do that for Louisiana.
“I don’t think trying to do it by parish is workable. I guess you could potentially do things by region, but that’s not really the direction that I’m intending to go right now,” Edwards said.
In another coronavirus development, state officials Friday filed a notice of appeal after a Baton Rouge-based federal judge gave them five days to submit a plan to improve hygiene and social distancing practices at the Rayburn Correctional Center in Washington Parish. U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson’s ruling came in a lawsuit originally filed in 2018 by an inmate who claims he developed diabetes as a result of poor medical treatment and meals while he has been imprisoned.
The Corrections Department has reported three coronavirus-related state prison inmate deaths as of Thursday: two at the state penitentiary at Angola; one at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel. All three had underlying conditions, the department said. Systemwide, more than 120 prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus, nearly 30 of them at Rayburn.
Louisiana’s number of known coronavirus infections increased by about 400 on Friday, surpassing 2,600 as the state continues efforts to increase testing. The death toll increased by about 60, surpassing 1,600. But hospitalizations continued to drop, falling below 1,700 Friday after peaking at 2,134 earlier this month. And the number of patients needing ventilators was 286 Friday. It had peaked at 571 in early April. Close to 15,000 are “presumed recovered” in the state figures.
Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.
By KEVIN McGILL Associated Press