Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday extended Louisiana’s stay-at-home orders until May 15, when he promised a “phased re-opening” would begin.
Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, said he decided to continue the state’s economic shutdown after speaking with the White House.
He left open the possibility of extending shelter-in-place orders that are shattering the state’s economy past May 15.
“While this is not the announcement I want to make, I am hopeful, and all of Louisiana should be hopeful that we will enter into the next phase of reopening soon, in mid-May,” Mr. Edwards said. “I am anxious to get all areas of our economy reopened, but if we accelerate too quickly we may have to slam on the brakes. That will be bad for public health and for businesses, bad for our people and bad for our state.”
Louisiana relaxed some of the social distancing rules. Shopping malls remain closed but the stores may open for curbside delivery. Restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for patrons to eat meals but without table-side service.
All employees of businesses that have contact with customers are required to wear masks.
While the COVID-19 health emergency shows unmistakable signs of slowing in hard-hit Louisiana, the governor’s office said the state “does not currently meet the White House criteria for entering Phase One of reopening.”
As of noon Monday, Louisiana’s hospitalizations drifted below the virus’s death toll. There were 1,683 hospitalizations Monday of whom 262 needed ventilators, much smaller numbers than the state had a week ago when the number of those hospitalized began dropping steadily, according to the state Department of Health.
Louisiana attributed 1,697 deaths to the coronavirus that first infected people in Wuhan, China, last year before spreading across the world.
Roughly 43% of those deaths occurred in New Orleans or pockets of adjoining Jefferson Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The state’s figures also show that 55.2% of the deceased suffered from hypertension and more than one-third from diabetes, while roughly one in five had chronic kidney or cardiac disease, congestive heart failure or were obese.
“The worst thing I could do is pretend we’re better off than we are,” Mr. Edwards said. “I don’t feel it’s appropriate to do this by region or by parish.”
Mr. Edwards insisted modeling shows stay at home laws have saved “hundreds if not thousands” of lives.
He said he hoped potential protests over the extension do not erupt that could force further extensions of the shutdown.
“Those people who protest, I get it, this is the United States of America,” Mr. Edwards said. “It would please me if they would protest with social distancing.”
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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