BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a media briefing from the State Capitol Monday as the legislature resumed the final four weeks of a session stalled by the coronavirus, unveiling a new online resource for businesses and churches as the state moves forward under a phased plan for reopening.
OpenSafely.la.gov will outline the latest guidelines as well as proper sanitation requirements. It will also be a place for citizens to report potential violations of the reopening and social distancing guidelines and requirements, or lack of PPE.
“We want to make sure there is as much clarity and transparency as possible going forward and about the process for safely resuming business and religious services as we do that over time in our phases approach, and the new site will contain important information and provide answers to many commonly asked questions.”
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning joined Edwards to talk about the program, explaining how his agency will continue to conduct compliance checks as businesses, most recently restaurants, open with new requirements.
Browning said that the state fire marshal’s office received “very few” complaints over the weekend as restaurants reopened and that none of those complaints were determined to be founded. He also said there were no complaints involving churches.
Edwards noted that the state saw a slight decrease in those hospitalized because of the coronavirus Monday, but a slight increase of those on ventilators. Overall, Edwards said the numbers are encouraging and that the deaths over the last three days have been the lowest in more than a month.
“It’s still a high number and we grieve every loss, and those three days combined, I think it’s 64 individuals have died. But if you go back to the daily reports, you get into March before you see a number that’s lower than what we’ve been reporting over the last three days.”
Edwards said that means the people of Louisiana are responding and “doing what we’re asking them to do in terms of abiding by the stay at home order,” social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing recommended hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing.
As of Monday, Edwards said Louisiana is seventh in the country in per-capita COVID-19 cases in the United States,
“We were second in the nation about two weeks ago,” Edwards noted.
On Friday, the state will address new testing and contact tracing methods.
The governor also said the state has received its first allocation of testing swabs as promised from the federal government within the past 24 hours, which he said will help Louisiana reach the goal of 200,000 tests monthly starting in May. More than 180,000 COVID-19 tests had been completed in Louisiana to-date.
Once testing is ramped up sufficiently statewide, Edwards said the state can consider moving into the next phases of reopening.
The governor’s office also noted the Edwards will be spending time both at the State Emergency Operations Center and the State Capitol, “as the Louisiana Legislature begins its work on what he hopes will be bills critical to responding to the COVID-19 crisis and keeping the essential functions of our state going.”
Louisiana lawmakers on Monday resumed the final four weeks of a legislative session stalled by the coronavirus, trying to get their arms around the scale of the budget problems caused by the outbreak.
“As I’ve mentioned to you before,” said Edwards, “we’ve always had critical infrastructure open and the legislature is certainly critical infrastructure, especially when you think that we have to have a budget in place by June 30th in order to continue to operate on July the 1st. But just like it is for critical infrastructure out there, this is not time for business as usual, obviously, because there is a greatly enhanced public health risk to staff, to members of the public, and to legislators as well. And so it’s just one of those things that the leaders will have to take into consideration as they balance all the things that are going on.”
Edwards’ office noted on Friday that he will be moving to three media briefings per week, planned for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until the state enters into Phase One under the White House coronavirus task force guidelines for reopening the economy. Additional news conferences may be scheduled, should the governor’s office have critical information to share.