Gov. Edwards announces Phase 2

By Cyndi Sellers

Governor John Bel Edwards announced Monday, June 1, that Louisiana will enter Phase 2 of the re-opening of the state after the COVID-19 pandemic forced severe restrictions on businesses and public gatherings. The Phase 1 partial re-opening will end June 4, to be replaced with Phase 2, which allows larger groups in businesses and opens some establishes that were still closed.

Under Phase 2, beginning Friday, June 5 churches, retail stores, restaurants, bars with LDH food licenses, hair salons, nail parlors, gyms and fitness centers, casinos and video poker, theaters, and solo and non-contact sports will be allowed to increase to 50 percent capacity, with the six feet of social distancing still in place, and face masks encouraged for all. Museums, zoos, and aquariums may open without tactile exhibits

Bars without LDH food licenses will now be allowed to open at reduced capacity. Day spas, massage establishments, tattoo parlors, pool halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, event centers and wedding venues, outdoor playgrounds and play centers may open with restrictions. Day camps may operate with an increased ratio of one adult to 24 children.

Still closed are amusement and water parks, children’s indoor play centers, contact sports, concert and music halls, and sleep-away camps. Live entertainment is not permitted inside any building or indoor function.

In his Monday afternoon press conference, Gov. Edwards said the state has made great strides in reducing the COVID-19 impact on the state. A statewide decrease in symptoms reported to emergency rooms, positive cases, and hospitalizations, plus an increase in testing, led to the decision to move ahead with Phase 2. On Monday, Louisiana had recorded 40,341 positive cases, of which 425 were new cases, with 31,728 presumed recovered. Louisiana is now the 10th state in per capita cases, versus the number two spot it held in March. Four deaths were recorded the day before, the lowest number since Mar. 22. The number of hospitalizations was down to 661, with 86 patients on ventilators, also the lowest since March.

State testing doubled from April to May, reaching more than 4.3 percent of the population and well above the CDC recommendation of 2 percent. However, some areas of the state including Cameron Parish, have not seen as much testing, and efforts are now being focused on these areas.

Testing has resulted in a 10 percent or lower rate of positivity, which is a good sign, but “there is still a lot of COVID out there,” said Edwards. “We still need some restrictions, and we will not be fully back to normal for some time.

A few areas of the state are still showing increases in cases or have leveled off without decreasing. Southwest Louisiana is in this group. The governor and state health officials urge everyone to continue to maintain social distance and wear face masks when around others than their own household.

Masks are especially important for people who interact with high risk individuals or anyone who has high risk family members. COVID-19 can be spread by people who have no symptoms, and it is estimated that 40 percent or more of cases show no symptoms, and so are not being counted or identified.