Edwards Announces Decision to Move to ‘Phase 2’ of Reopening
BATON ROUGE, La. (site staff and AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that restrictions on churches and businesses will be more relaxed now that the state appears to be making progress against the spread of the new coronavirus.
The latest lifting of restrictions will start Friday. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city won’t be moving to phase two along with the rest of the state but she will announce the loosening of some of the phase one restrictions.
The state’s new guidelines will allow bars, spas and tattoo parlors to open, but with heavy restrictions. Churches, restaurants, hair salons and other businesses that have reopened at 25% capacity since mid-May will be allowed to move to 50% of their occupancy rate. Live music venues will remain closed.
As Cantrell said, the lifting of restrictions won’t apply in New Orleans, where city officials made clear last week that they’d like to see more data first. Like the state, New Orleans now allows dining inside restaurants, hair and nail salons and church services, with 25% limits on capacity.
One concern voiced by the New Orleans health director, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, was the likelihood that many New Orleans area residents went to Gulf Coast beaches during the Memorial Day weekend. She cited reports of large gatherings along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
City officials want more time to collect and analyze data to determine whether significant numbers of people were infected at these Memorial Day events.
Edwards, a Democratic governor, has been under pressure from Republican officials since early May, when he extended his first, strict stay-at-home emergency order. That order, issued when the state was a hot spot for COVID-19, was lifted May 15.
But GOP pressure continued. Attorney General Jeff Landry, who early in the coronavirus crisis was supportive of Edwards’ efforts, joined Republican state lawmakers in sending the governor a letter Sunday urging him to “reopen our state and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of Louisiana’s hardworking people.”
They asked that all of Louisiana employers fall under the same regulations.
“The piecemeal method picks winners and losers, crippling small businesses and forcing too many into bankruptcy or closure.”
Louisiana has had more than 40,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as of midday Monday. The death toll rose by four to 2,690. The state says more than 31,700 have recovered. Hospitalizations, a key factor in whether restrictions are loosened, dropped to 661 after peaking at more than 2,100 in early April.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.
By Melinda Deslatte, Kevin McGill – and BizNewOrleans.com site staff