BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced a “step back to a revised Phase 2,” citing the state’s positivity rate and hospitalizations continue to rise amid what he called an “aggressive third surge of COVID-19 across all regions of Louisiana.”
“Because of the trajectory we’ve been on the last ten days or so, it is imperative that we take action and take action now,” Edwards said in a briefing Tuesday afternoon.
“There is not a single region of our state that is not seeing increases in new cases, hospitalizations and growing positivity of COVID tests, and I am incredibly concerned by Louisiana’s trajectory and our ability to continue to deliver health care to our people if our hospitals are overrun with sick patients,” Gov. Edwards said. “The data clearly tells us that we have lost all of the gains we had made and that our current mitigation efforts must be increased in order to adequately slow the spread. Now is the time to make changes, and stepping back to guidelines that closely resemble our Phase 2 restrictions is a tough but necessary step to take in order to protect the public.”
Cases are increasing, hospitalizations have climbed back up to more than 1,000, the highest level since August, and to date, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 6,300 Louisianans. According to the latest report by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Louisiana had 474 new cases per 100,000 people last week, which is higher than the national average for states, which is 356 per 100,000 people.
Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since mid-July, will continue. In addition, Gov. Edwards encourages any business that can allow its employees to work remotely to do so. He has directed all state agencies to do the same.
“It is absolutely vital that Louisianans take this third surge of COVID seriously. While there is hopeful news about the development of an effective vaccine, the reality is that we are several months away from being able to widely vaccinate the general population in our state. This virus is with us and we must continue all of the mitigation measures including wearing a mask and social distancing in order to stay safe. All of us working together can slow the spread of COVID and flatten the curve – indeed, we already have twice. We now have more than 1,000 patients in the hospital with COVID, wiping out months of progress and leaving our hospitals in a perilous place.”
The Governor’s updated Phase 2 proclamation, which is slightly modified from the summer, takes effect on Wednesday, November 25 and will continue 28 days through December 23. It calls for reducing occupancy at some businesses, decreasing gathering sizes, limiting indoor consumption at many bars and urges everyone in Louisiana to avoid gatherings with people outside of their everyday households.
Edwards said the order will encourage all employers public and private to maximize the use of telework where possible. He said he has already instructed state agencies to do so.
Restaurants, gyms, and retail establishments will be limited to 50% capacity. Any businesses deemed essential under the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidelines for COVID-19 will be required to continue to operate safely but with no restrictions on occupancy.
Bars can be open to on-premises consumption if they have a positivity rate of 5% of lower over the last 14 days. Those with over 5% can open for outdoor on-premise consumption at 25% capacity up to 50 people seated at tables. Bar service will not be allowed and bars will have to close by 11 p.m.
Indoor gatherings that do not fall among the businesses above will be limited to 25% capacity with no more than 50 people, and outdoor sporting events will remain limited to 25% capacity.
“We are trying to do everything that we can to keep schools open, said Edwards, who added that it is a local decision whether to stay open with in-person, virtual, or hybrid approach.
He also added that just because the newly tightened restrictions are set to expire just a few days before Christmas, no one should expect them to be loosened at that point. Based on all of the information the state has gotten from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, along with scientists and other experts, “we’re in for a couple of really, really tough months in Louisiana and around the country.”
- Click here to read the Governor’s updated order.
- Click here to view the data shared at the Governor’s media briefing.
View the full briefing below:
Last week, Edwards released a video and statement urging residents to do their part to stop the spread of COVID during the holidays to ease the strain on healthcare workers and help keep hospitals across from becoming overwhelmed.