Governor will lift stay at home order
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he will let his stay at home order expire Friday after more than seven weeks, allowing a limited reopening of the Louisiana economy.
Edwards’ announcement means the state is judged to have made significant progress in lowering the rate of COVID-19 spread, the incidence of COVID-like illness, the number of people in hospitals with COVID-related illness and the number of deaths.
That moves Louisiana into Phase One of federal reopening guidelines.
Phase One is a step forward in reopening, but it’s short of going back to the time before COVID-19 came to Louisiana.
Businesses have been divided into three classes.
Businesses deemed essential were never ordered to close.
Another class of businesses will remain closed for now. They include tattoo parlors, massage parlors, amusement parks and bars without Louisiana Department of Health food permits.
In between are businesses and other entities that will be allowed to open but will be limited to 25% of their capacity as determined by the state fire marshal, with masking and social distancing requirements in force:
•Restaurants, which had been limited to take-out and delivery orders, will be allowed to offer in-store dining with table service. Restaurants must leave 10 feet between tables and follow social distancing and mask guidelines.
•Barber shops and beauty salons can open.
•Churches may resume services subject to social distancing and other protection requirements.
•Museums, zoos and exhibits that do not require “tactile” features that encourage or require touching may resume.
•Gyms and fitness centers may open.
•Bars and breweries with LDH food permits may reopen.
•Theaters and casinos may reopen.
Spectators may gather, subject to social distancing, to watch solo and non-contact sports.
Businesses can learn more at opensafely.la.gov.
The Edwards administration has come under increasing pressure to ease economic restrictions. More than half a million Louisiana people have filed for unemployment since mid-March. The oil and gas industry, stung by a Saudi-Russian price war as well as demand reductions caused by COVID-19 across the world, has been pleading for help.
A move in the state House threatens to forbid the governor from enforcing business restrictions.
Edwards said it’s important to follow the science and the federal guidelines in order to prevent a flare-up of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary of the Department of Health, said problem areas remain, including increases in hospitalizations in the Shreveport and Monroe areas. But the net increase in Shreveport was 44 and in Monroe four, he said.
An increase in COVID as a percentage of emergency room visits in central Louisiana also caused concern.
But Billioux said the overall state numbers have improved even though the amount of testing has increased.
Edwards issued the original stay at home order March 22 and extended it beyond April 30 when, he said, portions of the state including Acadiana and northeast Louisiana were showing insufficient progress in bringing COVID-19 under control.
The stay at home order, which remains in place until Friday, requires people to shelter in place and limit travel to trips for grocery shopping, picking up medication, trips to work at essential jobs and outdoor exercise.
Billioux said people especially vulnerable to COVID-19, including those over 65, diabetics, and those with heart or kidney disease, should continue to observe precautions against the virus.