Local officials differ on extension of Stay at Home
Get ready to continue as is Louisiana; there is no reprieve from the stay-at-home order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards in mid-March.
On Monday afternoon, Edwards extended the order until May 15th, which keeps a large portion of the businesses in the state shuttered.
At his daily press briefing, Edwards stated that the extension of the order was made with the consultation of state health leaders and several public health experts.
“I would much rather have come out today and said we looked at the criteria we met it all, we’re going to go to phase one,” Edwards said Monday. “That’s just not where we are. The one thing I refuse to do is fudge that. I’m not going to pretend we’re better off than we are.”
The goal to reach in order to begin re-opening the state, according to Edwards, is the guidelines set forth by the White House corona virus task force. Those guidelines are broken down into phases.
In order to even begin Phase I of the plan, states are supposed to see two weeks of declines in new cases, hospitalizations and people with COVID-19-like symptoms.
Edwards and Assistant Secretary of the state’s Office of Public Health, Dr. Alex Billioux, pointed to the areas throughout the state that have not seen declines in the number of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
According to Billoux, the only area of the state that has seen a decline in the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and persons with symptoms of the virus is New Orleans. The mayor of New Orleans had already extended the stay-at-home order to May 16th two weeks ago.
Billoux also pointed to other regions of the state, including the Acadiana area, that are still seeing increases in the number of cases. Billoux also said that the Northshore area has seen a plateau effect in case count.
One of the hurdles that epidemiologists feel Louisiana most overcome in order to move to Phase I is the number of tests available to the state. Both Billoux and Edwards have set the number of tests that Louisiana needs at 140,000 to 200,000 a month. Billoux stated Louisiana is about halfway there.
Edwards dismissed the idea of opening parish by parish when asked during the press conference, citing the numbers are not improving enough in population centers across the state. Edwards said he did not want to see “hotspots” form.
As of Tuesday, there were 45 cases of COVID-19 reported in Evangeline Parish. That number has only increased by five over the past two weeks.
During the extension of the order, businesses that previously were directed to be closed will remain closed, including salons, barber shops, bars and casinos, among other things. Businesses that are deemed essential under the third phase of federal CISA guidance may still be open. Non-essential retail businesses in Louisiana continue to be able to open with fewer than 10 people total inside.
However, there will be three major changes in the new stay-at-home order. First, malls will remain closed to the public, but stores may open for curb side delivery. Second, restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for patrons to eat meals only, without table side service. Thirdly, all employees of a business who have contact with the public must wear a mask.
There are those that do not agree with the decision to put the state’s re-opening on hold. One of those persons is State Representative Rhonda Butler.
“Each region has been effected differently,” Butler stated on a Facebook post Monday. “Experts recommend a parish by parish approach to restart the economy. A one size fits all approach is not sustainable. I believe in personal responsibility.”
“Business owners should be trusted to make smart decisions,” Butler continued. “We can focus on protecting lives by working to restore livelihoods. Over 350,000 of our neighbors lost their jobs due to this economic shut down. We can’t wait until June to re-open.”
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine is one official who is in agreement with the Governor that the extension of the stay-at-home order should remain in tact statewide.
“I am one-hundred percent behind the Governor to keep the order statewide,” stated Vidrine. “The reason I am not in favor of opening parish by parish or by region is that there is too much inter-movement between parishes for recreational and work purposes. People could easily bring the virus back to their own parish.”
When asked if she believed that businesses such as barber shops and beauty salons could go about their business in a way to not continue the spread of the virus, Vidrine was honest in her response.
“I am still in favor of the hair salons, the barber shops and the nail salons staying closed until May 15th,” Vidrine said. “In those businesses there is too much close contact. People are too close together and there is no way of dividing them far enough apart.”
One of the main reasons for her position has to do with testing. Vidrine believes that testing is the key.
“We just started testing here in Ville Platte,” Vidrine went on to say. “Until we can get this testing done, I am totally in favor of the May 15th date. For now we need to do what we need to do to be able to do what we need to do later.”
Vidrine talked about Ville Platte being the only facility in the parish that has testing. Vidrine said that the testers will be coming back at the end of this week or early next week. The number to call to get registered is 678-9000 and there is no cost to get tested.
“When we start the testing back up again, I am urging those that have not been tested to do so, whether you have symptoms or not,” Vidrine stated. “Anyone can come to take it. The only thing you have to do is call the number to register. The more testing numbers that are reported, the more the Governor will feel comfortable moving forward.”