It looks like Louisiana will be staying under the Phase 2 coronavirus opening restrictions for another month after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state will not move on to Phase 3 Friday.
“Louisiana reached two sad milestones today as we surpassed 3,000 deaths and 50,000 positive tests in our state,” Gov. Edwards said. "Each of these Louisianans is someone’s child, sibling, parent or friend, and we mourn every one of these losses. It is clear that COVID is alive and well in Louisiana, and as we see more people testing positive and admitted to hospitals, we simply are not ready to move to the next phase, and ease restrictions further as businesses open widely."
The second phase of reopening, which began on June 5, was expected to last a minimum of 21 days, which would have made June 26 the earliest opening date under the order Edwards signed earlier this month. The 28-day extension stretches the next proposed relaxing of restrictions until at least July 20.
In announcing the delay in moving to Phase 3, Edwards placed the blame on a lack of social distancing, masking and other restrictions that had been in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We have seen the number of COVID cases and related hospitalizations increase across the state over the last number of days,” Edwards said. "If we were doing a better job as a state collectively of adhering to those mitigation measures we would not be seeing the case growth we're seeing today."
As of today, Louisiana ranks seventh out of 23 states across the country experiencing an increase in COVID-19 positive cases. Those include the neighboring states of Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
In the Office of Public Health Region 4, which covers the Acadiana and Teche areas, last week marked the highest levels of new tests since early April, when the coronavirus “curve” was on its way down after two weeks of a stay-at-home order.
More concerning, though, is an uptick in hospitalizations across the state and region. Statewide, hospitalizations hit a low of 542 on June 13. Today, they are at 630, a 16.24 percent increase since restrictions were relaxed to move into Phase 2.
In Region 4, hospitalizations have almost doubled, from a low of 38 on June 10 to 70 in today’s update from the Louisiana Department of Health. That represents an 84.21 percent increase in less than two weeks.
Although the Phase 2 restrictions allowed many restaurants to open their dining rooms and bars which serve food at half capacity, it has kept bars which do not serve food limited to 25 percent occupancy, and that at table seating rather than standing room. It has also kept tighter limits on personal service businesses, like barber shops, tattoo parlors and beauty salons.
"Many of you are doing the right thing and I thank you for it," Edwards said. "It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that there are still some people who refuse to wear masks in public, which puts all of us at greater risk of becoming sick."