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Thursday, September 10, 2020 - Louisiana to ease COVID restrictions, governor announces

(Stock photo)

By Mike Scott, mscott@stph.org

 

Here comes Phase 3.

Despite concerns over the volume of Labor Day gatherings across the state amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that shrinking case counts warrant the further loosening of state-mandated restrictions. And so, effective Friday (Sept. 11), Louisiana will transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of its reopening, he said.

“We have done better of late,” Edwards said in a Thursday news conference, according to NOLA.com. “That is what the data represents. That is why we are making the decision we made.”

Exactly what Phase 3 will look like is unclear; Edwards said he will spell it out fully on Friday. But, he cautioned, it does not mean all restrictions will be lifted – and it certainly doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

Specifically, he said, the statewide mask mandate will remain in place. Similarly, social distancing guidelines are also expected to remain.

St. Tammany Health System infectious disease experts applauded the decision to retain those elements of Phase 2 restrictions. They also urged continued vigilance regarding hand hygiene and cough etiquette, in addition to isolation for anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

CDC guidelines suggest the move to Phase 3 will likely mean restrictions on most indoor and outdoor gatherings – which have been limited to 50% of capacity during Phase 2 – will be eased. It’s unclear what it will mean for schools.

Edwards said state health officials will closely monitor infection data and will move quickly to reinstitute any necessary restrictions should the state experience a surge in infections.

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper, who had urged the easing of statewide restrictions, applauded Edwards’ decision, saying “moving to Phase 3 is the right thing to do for us at this time.”

Cooper added: “I have faith in our citizens that we will continue to take personal responsibility to do what is necessary to slow the spread and simultaneously support our local businesses.” 

In New Orleans, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said Thursday that, despite Edwards’ announcement, the city will remain in Phase 2 for the time being, NOLA.com was reporting.

As of midday Thursday (Sept. 10, 2020) the Louisiana Department of Health was reporting 155,419 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide since March 9, an increase of 464 cases. That includes 6,521 cases reported to-date across St. Tammany Parish, an increase of 32 cases over day-earlier figures. Additionally, 1,543 cases have been reported in Washington Parish and 4,239 in Tangipahoa Parish. 

Statewide, LDH was reporting 762 COVID-19 patients under hospital care, a day-over-day decrease of 20 patients. That includes 18 patients receiving COVID care at St. Tammany Health System. All STHS patients who test positive or are suspected of being infected with COVID-19 are kept in isolation, and all colleagues are following proper procedures.

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Visit STPH.org/COVID-19  for the latest information on coronavirus in St. Tammany Parish.