BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday, Aug. 26 he has signed an executive order to extend Phase Two of reopening the state’s economy until Friday, Sept. 11. The action also extends the statewide mask mandate and restrictions on bars and the size of social gatherings.
The governor made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday morning as the state prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Laura.
Edwards said he was extending the Phase Two order, which was set to expire Friday, Aug. 28, because state officials could not make an accurate assessment of the state’s situation with COVID-19 testing sites closing due to Hurricane Laura.
He also said many people will be evacuating from the Lake Charles area, which has the highest percentage of COVID-19 positivity in the state, to other parts of Louisiana.
Edwards warned residents to take both the threat of Hurricane Laura and COVID-19 seriously. The governor asked residents to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing and proper hygiene as they evacuated or prepared for Hurricane Laura.
“Louisiana has seen improvement in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and this would not be possible without the hard work of the people of Louisiana who have faithfully followed the mitigation measures, including wearing their masks when in public,” said Gov. Edwards. “While we have seen drops in hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases, we also know that we have more people moving around because of schools and colleges going back to in-person classes, which is one of the reasons we will stay in Phase 2 for another two weeks. The White House Coronavirus Task Force also continues to recommend that Louisiana keep its current mitigation measures in place, as Louisiana remains in the red zone for new cases and many of our parishes continue to have testing positivity rates higher than 10 percent.
Just this week, I had a conversation with Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the response for the White House, and she noted Louisiana’s improvement, but also recommended that we keep the current measures in place until we get positivity, cases and hospitalizations even lower. In addition, Hurricane Laura has caused Louisiana to pause its testing, which means that we will be flying blind with data for a couple of weeks when we need it the most to gauge the impact of resuming K-12 schools and higher education. Finally, tens of thousands of our neighbors from southwestern Louisiana, the area with the highest priority, ahead of Hurricane Laura’s landfall, and there will be additional sheltering after the storm – perhaps for an extended period of time. Extending Phase 2 until September 11 will allow us time to restart our testing and assess where we are after the storm.”
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