The state of Louisiana will not advance into phase three of President Trump’s Opening Up America Again plan at the end of this month but remain in phase two until July 24.

Gov. John Bel Edwards delivered the bad news during a news conference Monday. He is expected to issue a proclamation extending phase two until July 24, meaning large venues and other businesses must maintain a 50-percent capacity limit at their sites. Under phase three, large venues can resume normal operations with some social distancing protocols and visitation to senior centers can resume as well.

“Cases appear to be increasing all across the south,” Edwards said. “So that should put an end to the theory that the summer, with increased heat and humidity, would cause the virus to disappear.”

“It goes without saying that this is not the direction we want to be headed in,” he added.

As of Monday, some 50,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Louisiana while the death total had risen to some 3,000, according to the state Department of Health’s Coronavirus online tracker.

The number of Coronavirus cases in Louisiana increased by some 10,000 in the last 20 days. As of June 1, there were 40,341 cases of COVID-19 reported across the state as well as 2,690 deaths.

According to Edwards, trends in COVID-19 data showed hospitalizations were increasing when compared to previous weeks where the hospitalization rate declined.

Virus not spreading

in congregant settings

“The new cases are related to community spread rather than spread through congregant settings like nursing homes, for example,” Edwards said. “I think we all knew that with more testing, we would see more cases.”

The spread of the virus can be traced back to places like bars or events like high school graduation parties, according to Edwards. Edwards said the spread of Coronavirus among youth is not surprising because youth likely believe they are less likely to die and thus more willing to risk contracting the virus.

“It’s especially dangerous when these young people go back home where there are old people, maybe their parents,” Edwards said. “So we have to do better.”

Edwards said new restrictions would not be imposed but he implored people and organizations to comply with current restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19. As he has in past news conferences, Edwards chided people who were not complying with the state’s social distancing restrictions.

“There are people out there who are saying they’re done with the virus, but this virus isn’t done with us,” Edwards said.

Alex Billioux, Assistant Secretary for the state Office of Public Health, acknowledged that COVID-19 testing results were not disclosed until about two weeks after the tests were administered. That was one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of responding to the outbreak, he said.

“Not only is the data taking longer to get to us, but certainly the actions precede them by two weeks,” Billioux said. “Any actions we take today could take two weeks to have any impact.”

Cases in the

Monroe area

According to Billioux, the greater Monroe area had decreasing numbers of COVID-19 cases this week compared to earlier this month when cases were projected to increase. In Ouachita Parish, 1,980 cases of COVID-19 were reported as well as 67 deaths, as of Monday.

Data provided to LDH about COVID-19 patients showed that the parts of Ouachita Parish with the highest number of cases included southern and southeastern parts of the parish, particularly southern Monroe and Richwood. Other areas where COVID-19 case totals among residents were higher than elsewhere included the Claiborne area in West Monroe, Monroe’s Garden District and parts of eastern Ouachita north and south of Black Bayou.

LDH data also showed COVID-19 hospitalization peaked from April 6 through April 14.

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