Week in Review, May 11-15: In Safe Hands?
NEW ORLEANS – The biggest story of the week is that on May 15 many Louisiana businesses welcomed customers for the first time in two months. Hair and nail salons, gyms and others were allowed to open statewide as long as they limited their crowds to 25 percent of capacity. Restaurants who had been limited to takeout and delivery are now able to provide dine-in service with the same restrictions. All employees have to wear masks. New Orleans businesses will open or expand services starting May 16 under stricter rules.
Some of the week’s big stories:
An annual report commissioned by New Orleans & Company shows that 2019 was another record-setting year for New Orleans tourism: nearly 20 million visitors to the city spent more than $10 billion, both increases over the previous year. Those numbers are a stark contract to 2020. Hotel occupancy is currently hovering between 5 and 8 percent and officials expect the recovery to take years.
Once a hot spot for coronavirus infections, Louisiana is officially easing up Friday on economically devastating business closures and public gathering restrictions that Gov. John Bel Edwards credits with slowing the spread of the virus.
Democrats controlling the House have unveiled a $3 trillion-plus coronavirus relief bill — the fifth coronavirus response legislation so far.
The Louisiana legislature is in session. Among topics being considered: “tort reform” measures to reduce auto insurance rates, medical marijuana rules, legalized sports betting, shielding businesses from virus-related lawsuits and regulating billboards from lawyers promising big payouts from accidents.
A recent report shows 40,000 new unemployment claims in Louisiana. Officials, meanwhile, show that the fund will last another 16 weeks at the current spending rate. Since tourism and the New Orleans economy will be slow to restart, there could be a crisis on the way.