Louisiana Begins Phase One of Reopening on May 15

Louisiana will begin to ease restrictions on business openings when the current stay-at-home order expires Friday, May 15.

In Phase One of the state’s reopening churches, barbershops, beauty and salons, restaurants, coffee shops, bars that serve food, gyms and fitness centers, theaters, casinos and video poker parlors, stores with exterior entrances in malls, museums, zoos, aquariums and solo or non-contact sports can will be able to join the essential businesses already in operation.

Gov. Edwards said he consulted with health experts as well as members of Resilient Louisiana Commission and believes the step one of the phased reopening strikes the right balance between public safety and reinvigorating the state’s economy.

He adds that the decision to reopen is in line with the CDC vetted plan being used by the White House to provide guidance to states on when to begin reopening their economies.

The plan calls for decreases in COVID-19 related hospitalization, in the number of individuals presenting with symptoms and in the number of overall cases over a 14-day period.

Today (May 11), Louisiana reported 31,815 cases and 2242 deaths, and increase of 215 cases and 29 deaths from the previous day.

While the state continues to see new cases, the number as a percentage of the total number of tests has been trending down, said Dr. Alexander Billioux of the state’s health department.

The Governor also noted that since the end of April, overall hospitalizations are down 3733 and ventilator use has declined by 105.

“The overall trends are positive for the state of Louisiana,” Edwards said. “We do meet the requirements to go into Phase One. We are in a much better place today than we were a couple of weeks ago.”

The new businesses and entities allowed to reopen in Phase One must do so at 25 percent capacity, and employees who come in contact with customers must wear masks, Gov. Edwards said in his announcement during his press conference today (May 11).

Until the May 15 order expires, Gov. Edwards adds that the current restrictions remain in place.

Gov. Edwards expects to make the official proclamation to move the state into the first phase of reopening on Thursday, May 14. The new proclamation will remain in 21 days until June 5. Gov. Edwards said he will make an announcement on June 1 regarding whether the state can move into the second phase of reopening, he said. While the road to Phase Two will require a decrease in the same criteria that needed to be met for the Phase One reopening, Gov. Edwards said he will not announce the specifics of Phase Two until that decision is made.

During the next 21 days, tattoo parlors, children’s museums, amusement parks, bars without food service,

Dr. Billioux and Gov. Edwards cautioned that the Phase One of the reopening of the economy will not be a return to pre-COVID-19 operations.

“We are talking about a new normal,” Billioux said, adding that people should still wear masks, keep six feet distance when going out and remain home if they are sick. “This does not mean everybody in the public should go out and enjoy these businesses. People who are 65 and older, people with underlying conditions should stay home,” Dr. Billioux said. “The risk of COVID still remains.”

And while there is no model to indicate how cases could spike as activity increase, the possibility of a spike in cases does exist, especially if strict guidelines such as masks, social distancing are not adhered to, Dr. Billioux said, adding that the effectiveness of contact tracing and how willing Louisianans will be in providing information as well as quarantining if they are informed that they may have been exposed to coronavirus.

The state is expected to have 250 contact tracers at work by May 15. And testing capacity is expected to reach 200,000 tests per month before the end of May.

Businesses and churches are encouraged to register at opensafely.la.gov to get up to date information on reopening guidelines.

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