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La. stays in Phase Two, virus cases still on rise

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
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Louisiana will spend at least another 28 days in Phase Two of reopening the economy, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday.

That is because of an increase in cases of the novel coronavirus that Edwards attributed primarily to Louisianans not following Centers for Disease Control guidelines aimed at controlling the spread of the potentially deadly respiratory illness.

As of noon Monday, the state had hit what Edwards called “two grim milestones,” surpassing 50,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,000 deaths since the count began in March.

“The vast majority of new cases are related to community spread, rather than congregant settings like nursing homes,” Edwards said.

Just from Sunday to Monday, 461 additional cases were reported statewide. On June 5, the day Louisiana moved into Phase Two, some 41,898 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

It’s the increased number of hospitalizations that Edwards said troubles him most. Some 630 people remained hospitalized Monday, according to LDH. That’s up about 90 patients in the last 10 days and the most since June 2, Edwards said.

“This is the number that concerns me the most,” Edwards said.

However, local hospitalizations are down to single digits, North Louisiana Medical Center Marketing Director Elizabeth Turnley said.

According to LDH, 274 Lincoln Parish residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March, and 18 have died. On Friday, the state showed 19 parish deaths.

Local officials say they don’t know why the numbers changed.

Meantime, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker echoed the governor’s call for people to be more cognizant of wearing a mask, social distancing and washing their hands.

“I think what has happened is we’ve all kind of taken a breath of ‘OK, it’s over,’ and it’s not,” Walker said. “We’ve all let down our guard a little bit.”

Phase Two, which allowed for larger gatherings and reopening of additional businesses, was to have ended Friday.

Edwards said that in two weeks he and his advisers will do “another deep data dive” to see where Louisiana stands.

“We’ve got to do better,” Edward said. “There are a lot of people out there who say they’re done with this virus. The virus isn’t done with us.”