BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/AP) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he’s keeping Louisiana’s current coronavirus restrictions on businesses and activities in place for another month, even though those rules have provoked the ire of Republican lawmakers who convened a special session hoping to undo many or all of them.
At a news briefing focused mainly on the impending arrival of Hurricane Delta, the Democratic governor announced he’s renewed the terms of his pandemic emergency order with few changes and is maintaining the statewide mask mandate through Nov. 6. The restrictions had been set to expire Friday if Edwards didn’t act.
The rules — described as a Phase 3 order — were enacted in September and were loosened from previous orders.
“There just isn’t a lot further to go in terms of loosening restrictions before we are fully back to normal,” Edwards said. He added: “We need to stay the course.”
Restaurants, churches, gyms and most other businesses can operate at 75% of their capacity. Sports events such as high school and college football have crowd limits of 25%, which allows 25,000 fans in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, for example. One change in Edwards’ latest rules will allow alcohol sales again in some stadiums.
Tight limits remain on bars, keeping them to takeout and delivery sales only, unless they operate in a parish that has recently seen low percentages of coronavirus tests returning positive — and only if local officials agree. When they are allowed to open for in-person, onsite drinking, bars are restricted to 25% of their occupancy limits and tableside service.
Forty of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have reached the virus positivity rates allowed for bars to resume onsite drinking, but not all of those parishes’ local leaders have approved the reopenings.
An 11 p.m. curfew will remain on alcohol sales at restaurants, bars and casinos.
Republican lawmakers say the rules are too strict and should be scaled back, particularly taking issue with the limits on bars and crowd restrictions at football games. They describe the rules as damaging to economic activity and local traditions. Some conservative GOP legislators want all the restrictions and the statewide mask mandate lifted, calling them an infringement on personal freedom.
- Click here to read the updated Phase 3 order.
- Click here to read the extension of emergency provisions that is also extended 28 days.
Republicans are trying to give lawmakers more oversight over the virus rulemaking, and are considering whether to yank all or some of Edwards’ restrictions in a monthlong special session.
Edwards said virus cases have declined in Louisiana because of the face covering requirement, the limits on activities and residents’ willingness to adhere to them. He’s said Louisiana’s restrictions are looser than some other states that have seen smaller spikes in virus cases. And he noted the Trump administration has repeatedly praised his response, saying his decision-making is in line with the recommendations of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
The virus has killed at least 5,416 people in Louisiana, according to the state health department. About 86% of the deaths have involved people aged 60 or older. The state’s death rate is the fifth highest per capita in the country.
Nearly 171,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus since Louisiana’s outbreak began in March. Public health experts say actual infections of COVID-19 are likely far higher because many people never have symptoms or never get tested.
Louisiana has seen two spikes of the coronavirus, first in the New Orleans region in March and April, and statewide this summer. The percentage of positive tests and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have declined significantly since Louisiana’s latest high point in mid-July.
Louisiana has reported 526 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and five more deaths since Wednesday, bringing the cumulative number of cases statewide to 170,621.
Also according to the LDH:
- Because of the daily removal of newly identified duplicates and out of state cases, the new case increase may not match the difference between today’s and yesterday’s total case count.
- The collection dates for most of these cases fall between September 30 and October 7, 2020.
- 93% of the cases reported to the state today were community spread.
- 7% of the cases reported to the state today were in congregate settings.
- People aged 29 and under represent 32% of these cases. 19% are individuals between 18-29.
- Since Wednesday, 12,300 new tests have been reported to the state, bringing the total number of tests to 2,437,687.
The number of presumed recoveries from the coronavirus has outpaced new cases for a tenth consecutive week, according to latest data from the Louisiana Department of Health, although the margin is shrinking.
LDH data show 564 patients hospitalized with coronavirus statewide as of Wednesday, October 6, which is the most recent data available. Of those, 79 were on mechanical ventilators.
Gov. Edwards noted in his Tuesday briefing that the number of hospitalizations for the coronavirus statewide had risen by 49 over the past two days. Thursday marks the third day the number has ticked up.
“A couple of days doesn’t necessarily make a trend,” Edwards said, “but we’re keeping an eye on those hospitalization numbers because those are ground truth numbers.” Those people are in the hospital, they’ve been diagnosed with COVID, and obviously, we don’t want the number of people in the hospital with COVID to continue to increase.
The number of patients hospitalized in Region 7 as of Thursday was reported to be 187, with 13 on mechanical ventilators.
The total number of confirmed cases in Northwest Louisiana has risen to 18,510 and there are now 663 deaths reported in the region, with one less was than reported in Caddo Parish on Wednesday. The LDH did not offer an explanation as to why a death previously counted as COVID-related has been removed from the total.
Of the 140 new cases reported since Wednesday, 80 were in Caddo Parish and 33 were in Bossier. De Soto reported nine new cases. Bienville and Natchitoches each reported six. Webster reported five, and Sabine and Red River added one each. There were no new cases reported Thursday in Claiborne Parish.
As of midday, the LDH was reporting the following data on confirmed cases, deaths, and testing in Region 7:
- Caddo – 9,107 case(s) | 370 death(s) | 668 state tests | 161,743 commercial tests
- Bossier – 3,524 case(s) | 110 death(s) | 303 state tests | 67,894 commercial tests
- De Soto – 942 case(s) | 35 death(s) | 99 state tests | 14,152 commercial tests
- Webster – 1,352 case(s) | 28 death(s) | 181 state tests | 23,127 commercial tests
- Claiborne – 547 case(s) | 23 death(s) | 246 state tests | 8,667 commercial tests
- Bienville – 520 case(s) | 33 death(s) | 360 state tests | 9,905 commercial tests
- Natchitoches – 1,250 case(s) | 26 death(s) | 697 state tests | 17,326 commercial tests
- Sabine – 899 case(s) | 14 death(s) | 232 state tests | 12,586 commercial tests
- Red River – 369 case(s) | 24 death(s) | 592 state tests | 3,850 commercial tests
There are now 30,507 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the ArkLaTex and 1,032 deaths reported.
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.
If you have a fever or cough, you might have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. Keep track of your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get medical attention right away.