BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – State health officials are scheduled to meet with higher education officials Wednesday to discuss campus reopening plans.
In his coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that the return of students to both secondary and higher education campuses will present a challenge to keeping key indicators necessary for further reopening heading in the right direction and protecting the most vulnerable.
“We are closely monitoring school and college re-openings. We are going to be looking trends and potential problems, try to make sure that we’re identifying those as early as possible, digging into the data to see how reopening affects our numbers. And this is a process that is gonna continue and I expect will be refined throughout the fall.”
The reopening of schools and colleges is expected to further complicate matters as studies have shown that younger people are spreading the virus at a higher rate to the state’s more vulnerable population.
As of Tuesday, 35 K-12 school systems were open in Louisiana in some form and 40 will be open by the end of the week. The remainder will return after Labor Day.
There are currently 13 higher education campuses in the state that have started up again and eight more will be opening up by the end of the week, which is why Edwards urged college students returning to campus to “think twice” about going to large gatherings.
“I want to speak directly to our college students returning to campus. And I know that you’ve missed your friends. I know that life has not been what you wanted it to be for a while and that’s certainly true for the rest of us, as well. And you’re eager to see your friends and celebrate a new semester,” said Edwards.
“However, I’m asking you to be very careful in how, when, where you choose to celebrate. And if there is gonna be a gathering or party, whatever you might want to call it, if you have any reason to believe that it will be unsafe, because people won’t be masking or physically distanced, or maybe it’s not gonna be outside, or whatever, I’m asking you to think twice about going. And if you think twice and decide to go, I’m gonna ask you to think a third time and not do that. We really need to be safe, especially if you want this semester to play out the way we all want it to, and that is that school can remain operational without interruption for the entirety of the semester.”
Edwards said the Louisiana Department of Education is currently working with LDH to create a COVID-19 reporting system to assist health-safety concerns from parents, students and education staff.
Louisiana is ten days out from the expiration of the current extended Phase 2 reopening orders. Edwards said Tuesday that he expects to review the latest data with state emergency management and public health leadership within the next several days. The decision, expected early next week, will once again be based on gating criteria set by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Edwards first issued a statewide mask order on July 13, which was extended along with his Phase Two order through Friday, August 28.
Edwards also announced Tuesday that he will reject an emergency plan for the fall elections because it doesn’t expand mail-in balloting options for people quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic or those at greater risk of serious harm from COVID-19.