La. governor says details coming soon about moving state to phase 1 of reopening; masks in public may be option

Updated: Apr. 22, 2020 at 10:31 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Plans to move Louisiana to phase 1 of reopening could come as early as Monday, April 27, Governor Edwards announced to a newly-formed economic task force.

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The Resilient Louisiana Commission task force meeting was held via conference call on Wednesday, April 22. During the call, Governor Edwards said the state is currently about half-way through the 14 day evaluation period that is necessary in the CDC guidelines for reopening.

“We’re literally working non-stop to figure out what makes sense for Louisiana,” he said.

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The task force includes representatives from the public and private sector. The goal is to effectively move the state through the reopening process in the best way possible.

“We’re going to be making some decisions pretty quickly to get things going," Gov. Edwards said during his opening remarks.

Later in the call, Gov. Edwards said he hopes to make an announcement Monday with more details about moving to phase 1.

“When we get to phase 1, we don’t go back to where we were 2 months ago, because we can’t do that,” he stressed. “If we do, we know cases are going to spike to a degree that’s unacceptable.”

The statewide Stay at Home order took effect on Monday, March 23.

During his press conference Wednesday, Edwards said in order to continue moving through phase 1, people at home will have to continue social distancing.

He said Louisiana is not in the clear yet, careful to note the state is still among the top five in the country for rates of the virus.

“About a month ago we were reporting the highest case growth in the world,” he said. “You get back to numbers even approaching that, there is no way to successfully reopen your economy. How are you going to get the next convention to come to New Orleans, how are you going to get people to feel safe enough to go out and eat again.”

Gov. Edwards called on people to “mask up” when out in public. He likened the wearing of a mask to being the polite thing to do.

“It’s just like opening a door for them, or saying good morning or whatever it’s being kind and being courteous, and when others wear masks they protect you. So we’re all in this together. When we all wear masks we’ll effectively protect one another which is why I’m calling upon Louisiana to mask-up,” Edwards said.

Part of our new normal will mean wearing a mask or face covering in public, and while some are doing this already, some still aren’t so sold on the idea.

“The use of facial coverings and masks will be required,” said Gov. Edwards.

“I don’t have to wear it at work, but whenever I go shopping and in public, I wear it all the time,” said Kay McKeena, talking about her mask.

“It’s better for you to wear a mask because you just don’t know. We don’t know who has it and who don’t,” said Danielle Douglas on ways she’s trying to stay safe from COVID-19.

But some people still aren’t wearing masks.

“I don’t feel like I need to wear it yet,” said Davide Young.

It’s starting to possibly look like wearing a mask in public could soon be a requirement across Louisiana, when the current stay-at-home order expires.

“Whether you have an underlying health condition or not, we really need you wearing masks when in public, and when coming into contact with other people,” said the governor.

Starting Monday, April 27 in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, all residents older than 10 must wear face coverings for 30 days. Violators could be fined $1,000 if they don’t follow the order.

“The order will make exceptions of course for folks with health or mental health conditions that would be exacerbated by wearing a covering. It will make allowances for people exercising alone, driving, eating,” said Lina Hidalgo, Harris County judge.

“Coronavirus can spread fairly easily between people who are six feet away from each other, and for about ten minutes, and that’s why, again, wearing the mask is so important,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

Dr. Welch says wearing a mask is that extra degree of protection for those who may think they're sick.

But here’s how coronavirus can be transferred.

“It’s in the back of your throat and the back of your nose, so anything causing you to push air out, it’s going to have the virus in it. The louder you talk, if you cough or sneeze,” said Welch.

He says that’s why social distancing is so important, along with washing your hands frequently.

The governor said he intends to help parishes increase testing, saying that is a critical aspect to getting reopening the state.

He was also careful to note the state is nowhere near in the clear from coronavirus, and that it’s going to take a combined effort from everyone to continue bringing the numbers down.

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