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Phase 2 redo

Louisiana reverts to modified Phase 2
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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Louisiana will move back into a modified Phase 2 of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, just one day before the start of the long Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the new rules Tuesday in the face of a growing surge of COVID-19 cases statewide, including here in Lincoln Parish. According to the latest numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health, Lincoln Parish has 2,143 confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in March.

Some 56 parish residents are now confirmed dead from the virus, with two additional deaths probably linked to the illness, LDH says.

Edwards said he is taking the state back to Phase 2 partially so as not to compromise hospitals that are already near capacity. Louisiana had been in Phase 3 since Sept. 11.

Now, under the modified Phase 2 order, most businesses will go back to 50% occupancy, likely through the end of the year. Though the new order expires Dec. 23, Edwards indicated the restrictions would likely stay in place at least through December.

“If we stay on the trajectory we’re on now, we’ll have no choice but to come back and put more restrictions on,” the governor warned during a Baton Rouge press conference.

The new Phase 2 order continues the statewide mask mandate and limits gatherings to 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Sporting events have a 25% occupancy cap, while restaurants, retailers and other businesses will move back to 50% occupancy, all with social distancing required.

Churches and places of worship will remain at their current 75% occupancy level, with both masks and social distancing required.

Bars in parishes with over 5% test positivity must stop indoor on-premises consumption. They can allow distanced outdoor seating of up to 50 people.

“Because of the trajectory we are on, it is imperative that we take action and take action now,” he said. “We’re in for a rough patch.”

Whether the state is successful in once again flattening the coronavirus curve depends upon how Louisianans react, Edwards said.

Both Edwards and public health officials say they’re concerned the Thanksgiving holiday will turn into a super-spreader event as families gather for in-person celebrations, despite the Centers for Disease Control warnings against even small-group events.

“Holiday parties are a recipe for disaster right now,” Edwards said.

The latest reports show 474 new cases per 100,000 people in Louisiana. Last week, the number was 172 cases per 100,000 people. The national average is 356 new cases per 100,000 residents.

“This is the first week in many, many weeks where Louisiana actually has more new cases than the national average,” Edwards said.

State health officials say confirmed COVID cases, as well as COVID-like illness, positivity percentage and hospitalizations are increasing in every region of the state.

“The path ahead is dangerous,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s interim assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health, said.

Kanter said the state is on the same trajectory it was eight months ago when the virus hit, only now it’s also flu season, people are staying indoors more because of cooler weather, and it’s the holiday season.

“What is unique about this increase from the two previous ones, we’re now in lock step with the rest of the country,” Kanter said.

Both he and Edwards said that probably means no outside personnel — medical or otherwise — will likely be available for Louisiana this time.

“The next several months will be critical. Today, tomorrow will be critical,” Edwards said. “The only way you’re going to stop a surge is by these restrictions and mitigation measures. … At the end of the day, these are people’s lives we’re talking about.”

Check Friday's edition of the Ruston Daily Leader following the Thanksgiving holiday for more information on the phase change.