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Get Comfortable In Phase 2: Gov. Edwards Says He's Unlikely To Relax COVID-19 Restrictions Next Week

Paul Braun
Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses the media July 21, 2020.

The executive order keeping Louisiana in Phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus is set to expire at the end of next week. But Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that Louisianans shouldn’t expect any big changes.

Edwards described the modified Phase 2 restrictions – which include a statewide mask mandate, 50 percent occupancy limit for most businesses, and the closure of bars – as “the new normal.”

Louisiana is nowhere near meeting the criteria needed to move into Phase 3. The criteria, as defined by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, require a decline in cases, COVID-like illnesses and hospitalizations over a 14-day period. Health officials at the federal and state level have added “percent positivity” as one of the most important measures of a state’s progress in controlling the virus.

Edwards said after doing a deep-dive into the testing data on Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health said percent positivity was above 10 percent in every region of the state, and as of July 24, the percent positivity for the whole state was 14.34 percent.

Edwards said that calculation came from assigning the test results to the day the samples were taken, not the day results were returned– acknowledging some of the confusion surrounding that particular metric.

“And yes, we remain on the top of the list with the most cases per capita,” Edwards added. “We are above Arizona, above New York, above New Jersey, Florida, all these other states.”

One small bright spot: Hospitalizations are down slightly over the last few days, though Edwards cautioned that it's too early to call that a positive trend.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, head of the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, said doctors around the state are better equipped to handle this surge of cases than the first they experienced in April. They have more beds and more developed protocols for treating those suffering from COVID-19.

“Advances in healthcare at the hospital level that we’ve seen that may be contributing to a lower death rate compared to say three months ago,” Ghali said, citing advancements including the use of plasma transfusions from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and early use of steroids and Remdesivir.

But staffing is still an issue. Ghali said the situation in Shreveport is not as dire as in Lake Charles or Lafayette, but he still needs another “100 to 150 nurses.”