‘We’re in a new normal,’ Gov. Edwards says about coronavirus restrictions

Edwards won’t say if that means no fall tailgating

Gov. John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards (Photo by Wesley Muller)

Though statewide mandates and closures have changed relatively frequently over the past couple months, Gov. Edwards said the current restrictions and order should not change anytime soon.

Undeterred by a lawsuit filed against him by bar owners who accuse him of overreach, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday press conference that the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommends that bars be shut down in high-risk areas and that the Louisiana Department of Health has determined that some places are “so conducive” to the spread of the virus that they can’t operate in a safe way.

Edwards also said that Louisianians need to accept that wearing masks will be necessary for a while, calling them a “small price to pay” for the public health benefits they can produce. The governor said that he doesn’t expect to make big changes every couple of weeks, which suggests that Louisiana may remain in Phase 2 for a while yet.

Here are some other highlights of Thursday’s press conference:

Gov. Edwards doesn’t comment on the possibility of tailgating this fall

As unyielding as the governor has been on the topic of bars, he punted on the question of whether there will be college football tailgating this fall. The question of tailgating is of real interest in Baton Rouge. East Baton Rouge Parish has registered the second highest total of COVID-19 cases in the state. LSU football games routinely attract 100,000 people and tailgating is a huge part of the LSU football tradition. 

The SEC announced Thursday that its 14 schools  will kick off a conference-only football season Sept. 26, calling the delayed start and the removal of non-conference games “the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs,”

Gov. Edwards said any answer he gave regarding tailgating would be “complete speculation,” and chose not to comment.

Though he did add that, “we’re in a new normal for the foreseeable future, and things aren’t going to be the same as what we’ve experienced in the past. But exactly what that experience is going to be, I just don’t know yet.”

The governor has said that the virus spreads so easily in bars partially because people stay crowded together for hours on end and become less inhibited the more they drink. The same thing could be said about tailgates.

Louisiana awarded $17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education

According to “Pandemic to Prosperity,” a report published by the National Conference on Citizenship, if one excludes the people who can access the internet on their mobile phones, only 65 percent of Louisianians have the ability to get online. That high percentage of families without an internet subscription complicates the virtual learning plans that many of the state’s school systems plan to use this school year.

Gov. Edwards announced Thursday that  Louisiana is one of 11 states that has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help students access remote learning services by providing them with the necessary technology.

In April, 28% of public school students in Louisiana said they did not have access to school-issued or a personal tablet/computer, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

Edwards said Louisiana’s $17 million grant will provide “over 75,000 Louisiana students access to microgrants for remote learning resources, including at least 12,000 that will receive either devices or hot spots.”

In a press release announcing the grant, the Louisiana Department of Education said, “The LDOE will create an online portal for families to access supplemental resources and ensure that the portal includes multiple, high-quality, Louisiana-based providers with strong plans for partnering with families and (local education agencies). Louisiana will provide priority access to the online portal to the most disadvantaged students, including priority access to students and parents in struggling schools.”

The Governor’s office encourages recovered COVID-19 patients to donate their blood

Dr. Ghali Ghali, chairman at LSU Health in Shreveport, described how the plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients’ blood can help patients currently struggling with the disease at the governor’s press conference on Thursday.

“That plasma is what contains the antibodies,” said Dr. Ghali at the press conference. “Those antibodies are then administered into a critically ill patient and (the antibodies) then attack the virus.”

Dr. Ghali added that he encourages everyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma. The plasma-sharing program is available at LifeShare and various other blood banks across the state, Ghali said.