State residents await decision on Phase Two

John Dupont
Gov. John Bel Edwards

BATON ROUGE – A decision could come Monday, June 1, on the much-anticipated move from Phase One to Phase Two in Louisiana’s economic comeback in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. John Bel Edwards last week expressed “cautious optimism” on the move forward, which would begin June 5 if conditions allow him to issue an executive order to go that direction.

The number of positive cases has continued to rise, but at a much slower rate than the past month. Rural areas have seen the largest increases in new positive cases, but those came largely through a ramp-up in testing.

The biggest push in favor of the move to Phase Two would likely come from the ongoing drop in the number of patients hospitalized, along with decrease in the use of ventilators.

Hospitalization of COVID-19 patients dropped below 1,000 last week for the first time in more than two month, while ventilator use has dropped to around 100.

“Just this time 30 days ago, we were reporting double the number of cases,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in his May 22 press briefing at the State Capitol.

For Phase Two, the symptoms must remain on a downward trajectory for flu-like symptoms and COVID-19 cases in a 14-day period. The documented cases and positive tests must also show a downward trajectory during the same time frame.

In addition, hospitals must treat patients without crisis care and have a detailed testing program in place for at-risk health workers.

Phase One allowed the reopening of restaurants, gyms, hair salons, barber shops and bars with food permits, but only at 25 percent of normal capacity. It also allowed churches to reopen at the same capacity.

The state based its guidelines on recommendations from the White House and Centers for Disease Control.

Phase Two would pave the way for schools to reopen and for organized youth activities to resume. It would also give the go-ahead for bars and to reopen, but at a limited standing-room capacity.

It would also loosen restrictions to a degree on sit-down dining, sporting events, churches and movie theater, but with moderate mandates on social distancing.