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White House guidelines would clamp on parish

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Ruston and Lincoln Parish would be under stricter rules aimed at stopping the community spread of COVID-19 if recommendations from the White House were put in place.

Gatherings would be limited to 25 people; gyms capped at 25% capacity and more testing would be put in place.

That’s according to a report from the White House that was made public Friday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The report is included in a curt letter written by Edwards to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry answering Landry’s criticism of Edwards’ latest order mandating face coverings, closing bars and limiting gatherings to 50 people.

The letter does not mention Lincoln or any other parish specifically, nor does the governor say anything about further clamping down.

Edwards wrote he was including the recommendations and statewide data for Landry’s “edification.”

On Wednesday, the day after Landry tested positive for COVID-19, the attorney general released a nine-page opinion saying Edwards’ latest order is most likely unconstitutional and unenforceable.

According to the White House report, given the COVID-19 status of both Ruston and Lincoln Parish for the time period studied — July 4 through July 10 —both fall under what the report calls Yellow Zone areas.

Policy recommendations for Yellow Zone areas include limiting social gatherings to 25 people, limiting gyms to 25% occupancy, community-led testing, surge testing and contact tracing to neighborhoods and zip codes with the highest case rates.

None of those are in place locally now.

The recommendations also call for a mask mandate, social distancing and ensuring that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance. Most of those recommendations are already in place via Edwards’ latest order, or the stipulations contained in the Phase Two economic reopening criteria under which Louisiana is currently operating.

Yellow Zone determination is made based on the number of new cases of COVID-19 and the diagnostic test positivity rate.

Though Lincoln Parish made the Yellow Zone for rate of positivity at 9.9% — the maximum percent is 10; it fell in the Red Zone for new cases. The parish was ranked fifth in the top 12 Yellow Zone parishes.

According to the report, the entire state is a Red Zone both for number of new cases per 100,000 and test positivity.

As of noon Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 482 cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln Parish since the count began in March. That’s an increase of nine cases overnight and a jump of 81 cases over a week.

Statewide, Louisiana had 88,590 confirmed cases since March as of Friday.