Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that Phase 2 of coronavirus restrictions will remain in place through at least August 7.
The governor said he will extend those restrictions — along with his statewide mask mandate — before the current executive order expires at the end of the week.
The announcement came as no surprise. In recent weeks the state has reported some of the highest daily case totals since the outbreak began, and hospitalizations are as high as they were back in May, renewing concerns that health care capacity could be overwhelmed in certain parts of the state.
“We’re just seeing a tremendous amount of COVID and a tremendous amount of spread of COVID across the state,” Assistant State Health Officer Alex Billioux said during Edwards’ Tuesday media briefing. “We’ve now clearly turned a corner in the wrong direction.”
Edwards last week issued a statewide mask mandate, shuttered bars, and put a 50-person cap on public gatherings. Those measures are being extended as well.
Still, some top federal officials think the situation in Louisiana warrants even tighter restrictions.
Last week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force classified Louisiana as one of 18 states in the so-called “red zone” for coronavirus cases per capita, and issued a series of recommendations. They included closing down gyms and capping public gatherings at 10 people.
Edwards said he won’t amend Louisiana’s Phase 2 restrictions to match the new guidance. He wants a couple more weeks to see if the current mitigation measures are enough to flatten the curve.
The extended order is set to expire Aug. 7, within days of when many school districts are scheduled to begin the 2020-21 school year, adding uncertainty to the reopening process.
The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education requires districts to abide by certain baseline safety standards — standards that change depending on which phase of reopening the state is in.
Some school districts have elected to delay the start of in-person instruction. On Tuesday, New Orleans public schools announced that students will not return to the classroom until after Labor Day.