Last week, President Donald Trump rolled out his three-phase plan for “reopening” the national economy on a conference call with governors.
Edwards said the plan will eventually serve as a valuable roadmap, but that he expects Louisiana to lag behind many other states on the path to economic recovery.
“Before you can ever get to phase one, there are some thresholds you need to meet, Edwards said, explaining that the state needs metrics like hospitalization rates to show consistent improvement over a two week period.
“We don’t meet the threshold requirements, although we’re moving in that direction,” Edwards said. “I think by the time we get to May the 1st, we will be in that situation.”
Edwards said the White House plan will go hand-in-hand with guidelines expected to be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the coming days.
He said Louisiana’s out-patient surgical centers and non-emergency medical clinics will reopen first, likely before the statewide stay-at-home order expires at the end of the month. Edwards said he and Courtney Phillips, the newly-installed secretary of the department of health, will provide additional details next week.
Edwards said President Trump made it clear that governors would have the authority to lift social distancing orders and reopen businesses at their own pace — a departure from comments the president made earlier this week that suggested he might unilaterally order Americans back to work.
Edwards said before any attempt is made to reopen the economy, the state will need more robust diagnostic surveillance and antibody testing coupled with aggressive contact tracing.
“I don’t think a single state today can say today that they have the amount of testing they want and need,” Edwards said. “We’re going to try to ramp up all of these types of testing.”
He said increased diagnostic testing capacity at in-state labs will mean fewer samples are shipped out of state, where transit times can delay results by several days. Rapid-testing will let doctors and public health workers better track and contain virus clusters. And antibody testing could identify a portion of the population who experienced mild symptoms and were never properly diagnosed. Edwards said those individuals may be protected from future infections and could more quickly reintegrate into society.