Randy Brown, Bossier Press-Tribune
In a rare Saturday afternoon press conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that masks will be required statewide as of Monday July 13, 2020. The governor noted that Louisiana continues to experience COVID-19 case growth statewide. As of Saturday July 11, 2020, there have been 76,803 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Louisiana. The governor also noted growth in both the daily number of positive coronavirus tests and in the rate of hospitalizations statewide.
Governor Edwards said, “it has become clear to me, especially after the numbers that we saw yesterday, that our current restrictions are not enough. The appeal that we have been making to all Louisianians to abide by our restrictions and to comply with our mitigation measures just have not produced the results that we had hoped for or the results that we need.”
Governor Edwards continued, “On Friday July 10, 2020, we had 2,642 new cases recorded, which is the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases recorded to date in the state of Louisiana. On Saturday July 11, 2020, there have been 2,167 more cases announced. Positivity regarding the tests for both days exceeded 10%. We have been over 10% for every day (except for two) during this last week. It is true that we are testing more people and as a result, we are seeing more of the cases that are out there. As of July 11th, we have almost met our monthly testing goal, as we have tested 195,536 people out of our goal of 200,000. We added 23 more deaths on Saturday July 11th, bringing the Louisiana death total to 3,295 (to date).”
The governor made it a point to note that Louisiana was near the top (number two) nationally in coronavirus cases (per capita) not long after this health crisis started in the Spring. However, the state had dropped to tenth as of June 19, 2020 and is now back up to number three behind only New York and New Jersey. Governor Edwards made it clear that the state of Louisiana hopes to avoid going backwards and also hopes to avoid closing businesses again.
However, Governor Edwards said “what we can not do is to go back to a time when we were running out of hospital beds and ventilators. We can not risk losing our capacity to deliver life saving care. As of Saturday July, 11th, there are 1,182 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide, up from 542 on June 13th. So in looking at our current restrictions and addressing some of our biggest concerns, we took a look at mask usage, physical distancing and limiting crowd sizes. I have been extremely patient in saying that we are going to do everything that we can in terms of getting more compliance with our current restrictions and mitigation measures, but today we are going to have to move a little bit further than that. We are trying extremely hard not to revert back to Phase 1.”
Gov. Edwards continued, “so today, I am going to announce that we are going to stay in Phase 2 until July 24th, at which point we will examine what is going on at that time and then figure out what happens after July 24th. However, there are going to be some changes in effect as of Monday July 13, 2020. I am signing an executive order today which will take effect on Monday July 13, 2020 at !2:01 a.m. The changes will go into effect at this time because we wanted to give both businesses owners and the public time to comply.”
1.) Masks are now mandated for everyone statewide ages eight and older (unless they have a major health condition that makes it difficult to wear a mask). Parishes and municipalities may opt out of this mandate if they do not have a high incidence of COVID-19. Right now, only three parishes statewide qualify to opt out (Grant, Red River and West Feliciana).
2.) All bars (with and without food permits) will be closed to on-premises consumption. These establishments are allowed to engage in curbside pick up.
3.) Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people. This does not change the restrictions for Phase 2 with respect to occupancy limits. Essential businesses will continue to have no limits. Non-essential retail and places of worship will continue to have a 50% occupancy limit. Physical distancing restrictions will still apply to outdoor gatherings.
The governor said that outdoor backyard gatherings are believed to be a heavy contributor to the current spike in coronavirus cases. As such, the governor encouraged residents to keep these gatherings as small as possible, to wear masks, to practice social distancing and to have any type of social gathering outdoors, if at all possible.
Governor Edwards said that the state of Louisiana is following all White House and CDC guidelines. And, he concluded the new information portion of his press conference with the following statement: “the current restrictions (along with today’s changes) will stay in place at least until July 24th when the current proclamation expires. Again, we will continue to look at the data and decide then what happens after this time.”
BPT will continue to bring you updates on this story and any related developments as further information is made available.