BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said he is expecting to make an announcement Monday on whether the state will be ready to move into Phase One of reopening the economy on May 15.
Edwards signed an emergency order last week extending his statewide stay-at-home order until May 14 to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in hopes of meeting White House guidelines recommended for reopening the economy, but demands for a faster timeline on lifting restrictions have been growing.
The governor said any future emergency orders he may issue in response to the coronavirus will have to be balanced between public health and reopening the economy.
Wednesday’s briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus was delayed by an hour as a hearing continued before the House and Governmental Affairs Committee on proposed legislation to undermine the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Republican lawmakers in the Louisiana legislature are trying to unravel his statewide stay-at-home order, taking their first strike Wednesday in a hearing offering clues about whether GOP anger over the coronavirus response could lead to curbs on the governor’s power.
“I don’t see the merit in what Rep. Miguez and others are doing, but I will be focused on my job,” Edwards said during Wednesday’s briefing following the hearing. He also stressed that the state did not close many businesses that other states closed.
“We obviously know the importance of keeping the economy open.”
Wednesday’s briefing also comes one day after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called for Edwards to consider allowing small businesses like barbershops and hair salons to re-open.
On Monday, Edwards announced the creation of OpenSafely.la.gov, an online resource outlining the latest guidelines as well as proper sanitation requirements. It is also a place for citizens to report potential violations of the reopening and social distancing guidelines and requirements, or lack of PPE.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in Louisiana rose by more than 400 Wednesday afternoon an update that came later than usual from the Louisiana Department of Health.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the LDH was reporting 30,399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, which is 403 more since Tuesday. The number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus rose by 52 and now stands at 2,094.
Edwards said Wednesday afternoon that 400 children have tested positive for the coronavirus, ranging in age from newborn to 18 years.
In other highlights from Wednesday’s briefing, Edwards said the state has a “very aggressive plan we believe will work,” including plans to hire 700 workers to begin contact tracing. “We feel much better today on testing and contact tracing then two weeks ago.”
He said the state has paid out around $275 million in unemployment benefits over the course of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Referring to a call with the nation’s governors, Edwards said most agree that they will need more help from the federal government in filling gaps caused by the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
In addition to his continued plea to the public to wear masks and take social distancing precautions, Edwards encouraged people not to go to businesses that should not be open under the current restrictions or anywhere workers are not wearing masks.
“We encourage everyone to abide by the orders. There are reasons why those businesses are closed,” said Edwards. He also said he believes the many lawmakers who are not wearing masks at the state capitol are making a “mistake.”
“If you look at the CDC guidance and how important it is to cut down on the spread of the virus, I would encourage everyone to wear masks.”
Gov. Edwards also thanked Lafayette Parish Judge Thomas Duplanter for finding a creative way to proceed with adoptions amid the pandemic by performing the state’s first “Zoom adoption.”
The governor started the briefing by signing a proclamation making May 6 Nurse’s Day in the state of Louisiana, saying “a day is not nearly enough to thank our health care workers for their sacrifices across the state and around the nation.”
It was also Interpreter Appreciation Day. Gov. Edwards thanked the interpreters that have been there every day to help interpret the briefings for members of the public who are hard of hearing.
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