BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards says an announcement on whether the state will move into Phase 3 of reopening could come as early as Wednesday, but that he will not rush the decision.
During an early Tuesday afternoon briefing on the state’s response to Hurricane Laura, Edwards said the decision will come before Friday, which is when the current Phase 2 order is set to expire.
The current Phase 2 order has been extended three times since it was first ordered in early June.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 250 new COVID-19 cases and 13 more deaths on Tuesday.
Edwards has repeatedly noted that decisions on reopening are based on gating criteria set by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which include rates of positivity per 100,000 population in the state, as well as the rate of new cases over a 14-day period.
The governor has also warned that schools reopening across the state along with all of the additional movement resulting from Hurricane Laura and a slowdown in testing, as well as the possibility that the Labor Day weekend could result in a spike similar to the one that followed Memorial Day are all factors in that decision.
Updating the state’s storm response and recovery efforts, Edwards announced that Sabine and Natchitoches are among the parishes added to the list of those approved for individual disaster assistance from the federal government.
The governor also confirmed another death related to the hurricane, bringing the total toll in Louisiana to 26. While he did not share details on the cause of the most recent death, he did note that seven of the fatalities have been related to storm cleanup, such as people falling from roofs and being hit by limbs. He also noted that nine of the deaths have been related to the misuse of generators.
The number of customers without power statewide is now down to just under 128,000, largely in the southwestern region of the state.
“Progress will be slower than it has been up until now, just because of the sheer devastation to the infrastructure in south Louisiana,” Edwards said.
While progress has been made in getting water systems repaired and back online, Edwards said 48 of them are still down, affecting more than 15,000 people. He said there are currently 93 boil advisories in effect and that people in affected areas need to heed such advisories and monitor for public health alerts.
There were still 12,730 people sheltered in Louisiana because of the storms, most of them in hotels in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. Edwards once again asked that Louisiana residents in Texas shelters stay there for now, as hotel rooms available for non-congregant sheltering remain at capacity in Louisiana. He said those that come back to the state but are still unable to return home would likely end up at the megashelter in Alexandria until hotel rooms could be found for them.