Worrisome spike in Louisiana COVID-19 cases means two more weeks in Phase 2

Louisiana passes 50,000 cases and 3,000 deaths

File photo of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday afternoon that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing across Louisiana and that because of that worrisome data he is postponing the state’s scheduled transition to Phase 3 of his re-opening plan. Edwards said he will likely sign the order Thursday and that when he does, Louisiana will remain in Phase 2 for another 28 days.

The governor said the new cases are mostly coming from community spread and not from congregate settings such as nursing homes. That suggests, he said, that Louisianians who started moving about more freely after the state moved to Phase 2 haven’t been taking the necessary precautions — to keep themselves and other people safe.

Louisianians may be feeling a sense of fatigue or may be feeling that precautions are no longer necessary, Edwards said. Or some residents may be feeling invincible. Edwards and Alex Billoux, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health, also pointed to a disproportionate number of cases in people age 18-29 and suggested that young people may feel that the virus won’t harm them.

  There are a lot of people saying they’re done with this virus. Well, the virus isn’t done with us.   – Gov. John Bel Edwards

It’s true that young people aren’t as likely to die of COVID-19, Edward said, “but just because it’s less likely that a young person will die, that doesn’t mean that it’s unheard of.”  Across the state, he said, 13 people under age 29 have died of COVID-19, and about 10,500 people in that age range have contracted the disease.

There are a lot of people saying they’re done with this virus,” Edwards said. “Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”

The governor said Louisiana, one of 23 states across the country where cases are increasing, has reached “two very grim new milestones.” The state has passed the 50,000 coronavirus cases mark, he said, and more than 3,000 people have died.

As of Monday, Louisiana had 630 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 69 of whom were on ventilators. “We’re nowhere close to threatening our capacity” to treat sick COVID-19 patients, Edwards said, “but it is a trend in the wrong direction that we need to stop as soon as we can so that we don’t get close to lacking the capacity we need.”

After signing a March 22 stay-at-home order, Gov. Edwards lifted it May 15 and announced that Louisiana had entered Phase 1 of its re-opening plan. That allowed certain businesses to operate at 25 percent capacity. Phase 2, which began June 5 allowed those businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity. According to federal guidelines, under Phase 3 “vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions” and employers could staff their worksites without restrictions.

Edwards said he participated in a Monday morning phone call with Vice President Mike Pence and other governors across the country. Cases are increasing most in the region from Texas to Florida and up into the Carolinas.

“Some had hoped,” Edwards said, “that this virus would go away once we got to the summer. It is very clear that hasn’t happened and is not going to happen.”