Governor Edwards is expected to announce whether he will extend the Stay at Home order or, the state will commence Phase 1 of reopening the economy after more than a month of closures on Monday, May 11, during his afternoon press briefing.
With nearly every state in the U.S. under some form of economic lock-down, the White House released guidelines for how the states should evaluate whether they are ready to reopen.
Phase 1 – keeps social gatherings limited to 10 people, but allows restaurants, movie theaters, churches and gyms to reopen with strict physical distancing protocols.
Phase 2 – allows gatherings of up to 50 people. Schools can reopen. Bars can reopen with limited standing room occupancy.
Phase 3 – allows everyone to return to work and visitors to return to hospitals and senior living facilities.
Edwards has repeatedly said he is following those guidelines for his evaluation, focusing on the number of new cases, hospitalizations and testing. White House officials say the first two must be decreasing consistently while the number of tests increases for a state to consider reopening.
And Louisiana appears to be following that trend. Since hospitalizations peaked on April 13, the state has seen a steady decline in the number of people in hospitals and the number of hospitalized patients on ventilators.
The number of new cases reported has remained relatively steady since the beginning of April, with daily case increases ranging between 200 and 800 new patients.
Most days, there are between 500 and 600 cases reported. But the number of tests has continued to increase in that time-frame, meaning that the percentage of people testing positive has slowly decreased over the course of the outbreak, especially since the Stay at Home Order went into effect and its effects began to make a dent in the data.
These positive signs have already led to some relaxation of the stay at Home order. At the start of May, Edwards said he would allow limited patio seating to reopen for restaurants, throwing a lifeline to struggling restaurants.
Non-emergency surgeries are expected to restart Monday after surgeons were advised near the start of the outbreak to reschedule all elective procedures.
GOP state lawmakers, emboldened by the fact that some of the state’s hardest-hit places — metro areas such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge — have begun a downward trend for new cases, have been applying pressure to the governor to begin reopening the state’s economy.
A House committee voted 9-7 Wednesday to advance a proposal to strip Edwards’ ability to penalize businesses that don’t comply with his order for 15 days from passage. It would have to win support from the House and Senate to take effect. Both houses of the Louisiana Legislature are Republican-controlled, but some have been hesitant to reopen too soon.
Edwards has repeatedly said during press conferences that the virus’ spread is uneven throughout the state. While places like New Orleans are improving, some of the more rural parts of the state, where testing is not as readily available, are still seeing increases.