BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards issued a stern warning to Louisianans Thursday after an “alarming” spike in new coronavirus cases since the second week of June.
“Based on these trends that we are seeing, every Louisianan needs to do a real gut check on whether he or she has been slacking off when it comes to taking the proper precautions,” Edwards said at his press conference Thursday, June 18.
Excluding outdated tests that had been backlogged, roughly 4,200 Louisianans have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 10. The spike cannot be attributed to an increase in testing, public health officer, Dr. Alex Billioux, said.
“We’re seeing a rate of rise that, in two weeks, could make us look like Texas, Mississippi, or Arkansas,” Dr. Billioux said. “We need to act to make sure that we do what we did early on and reverse those trends by being good neighbors to each other.”
Only 9% of the new cases since June 10 are in congregate settings like nursing homes or prisons, meaning the virus is spreading faster in the general community. Social restrictions loosened and more businesses resumed operations when Louisiana entered Phase 2 of reopening its economy on June 5.
The state is still testing more people per capita than any of its neighbors in the Gulf south. A smaller percentage of tests are coming back positive in Louisiana than in its neighboring states too.
But Edwards warns that could change if residents let their guards down.
“We can easily see the gains that we’ve made evaporate, and that’s why we always have to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially those who are most vulnerable,” he said.
Gov. Edwards urges Louisianans to wash their hands, stay in their homes unless it’s necessary to leave, and wear masks, though he said he does not intend to make masks mandatory in public places.
The governor is slated to announce whether Louisiana will further loosen restrictions and enter the third phase of reopening its economy on Monday, June 22. He says he’s waiting to see more data over Father’s Day weekend before he makes a decision.
Meanwhile, the state has mandated that nursing homes test each of their residents and staffers. Homes that do not comply could be forbidden from accepting new residents or have Medicaid funding withheld. Edwards says he does not expect to have to levy penalties.
Nursing home residents who test negative will be retested weekly to ensure they’ve not caught the virus since a previous test. That practice will continue in each facility until it has been free of new cases for 14 days.
Click here to view detailed graphs and data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
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