Louisiana's stay-at-home order and social distancing restrictions, including a 10-person limit on public gatherings, will be extended until May 15, Gov. John Bel Edwards says.
Edwards unveiled his plans to extend the order, which ends April 30, during a news conference Monday. The announcement came amid news of other states across the country entering President Trump's Phase One for loosening social distancing restrictions and reopening the economy.
“Obviously, my hope was that we would be taking bigger steps toward reopening and moving toward some semblance of normalcy than what I'm going to announce today, but the fact is, we just don't meet the criteria,” Edwards said.
As of Monday, there were more than 27,000 reported cases of COVID-19 as well as some 1,700 deaths, according to the state Department of Health's COVID-19 tracker. More than 17,000 people have recovered, according to the Department of Health's estimates.
According to Edwards, he informed Vice President Mike Pence of the decision Monday morning. Pence supported the move, Edwards said.
“Louisiana does not have consistent decreases in both new cases and new hospitalizations,” Edwards said. “It's not just one region.”
According to a map of the state, new hospitalizations and new cases of COVID-19 were increasing in Region 8.
“I'm hopeful that everyone will view the extended two weeks as time to adjust to the new normal,” Edwards said. “When you wear a mask, you protect those around you.”
Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary for the state's Office of Public Health, said public health officials supported the extension of the stay-at-home order.
“We do feel that there is some improvement, in fact, significant improvement going on. But it's not evenly distributed,” Billioux said. “There are several regions where we frankly have increasing cases.”
Billioux said new hospitalizations corresponded to cell phone GPS data indicating more people were not staying at home.
When asked why he did not choose to reopen the state on a parish-by-parish basis, Edwards said, “The reason I chose not to do it is because we have enough places around the state where cases are increasing and hospitalizations are increasing. I don't feel it's appropriate to do this by region or by parish.”
Edwards warned that people would likely be upset when they discovered Phase One was almost as strict as the current stay-at-home order.
Of the possibility of protests, Edwards said, “I hope not.”
“Rather than doing that that they would be focused on leaning forward and preparing for Phase One,” Edwards said.
According to LDH data, in Region 8, hospital resources in use included 40 hospital ventilators, 640 beds, and 101 ICU beds. The number of hospital resources still available in Region 8 included 107 hospital ventilators, 723 beds, and 101 ICU beds.
Of possibility that Legislature might resume the regular legislative session, Edwards said, “I happen to think the Legislature is essential infrastructure.”
“We have the month of May to get a budget in place,” Edwards said.