In the fight against COVID-19, Louisiana took a step backward.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced modified Phase 2 mitigation measures this week at a news briefing.
The state will remain in the phase until Dec. 23. Edwards said he didn’t want residents to have an expectation that the state will move to Phase 3 at that time. “We’re in for a couple to three really, really tough months,” he said.
The coronavirus data is bleak, with regard to the third surge underway in Louisiana which prompted the move.
As of Friday, Nov. 20, there were 474 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in Louisiana. A week ago, there were 172 per every 100,000.
Edwards said this is the first time in several months that the state’s positivity rate is higher than the country’s average, which is currently 356 positives per 100,000 people.
Calcasieu Parish, as of noon Wednesday, has an 11.30 percent positivity rate, down from 12.30 percent the previous week, but still far above the goal of below five percent.
On Tuesday, the state had 3,266 new cases and 39 deaths. At noon Wednesday, the LDH reported 1,234 new cases and 27 more deaths. The LDH reported Wednesday that Calcasieu has a total of 10,234 cases and 243 deaths.
State and local numbers are presumed to be higher than the confirmed count reported because many residents don’t experience symptoms or don’t get tested.
Every region across the state is experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percent positivity.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, interim assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said the state is seeing as steep of an increase as is possible. Data mapped on a graph shows the line of new cases shooting straight north.
While there are still available beds in hospitals across the state, Kanter said nurses and other medical personnel are being forced to take on more patients than are usually assigned. He said some hospitals have put recliners in waiting areas to support the extremely ill while they wait longer for care than pre-pandemic.
Edwards said the White House Coronavirus Task Force has told him that unless the state shows declines over a two-week period in all gating criteria — COVID-like symptoms, case numbers and hospitalizations — the state will not be considered for medical personnel reinforcements from other states.
The Lake Charles Memorial Health System reported that as of Monday afternoon, hospitals in the five-parish area of Southwest Louisiana had 74 patients with COVID-19, 13 of whom are on ventilators.
This is up 10 from 64 COVID patients the prior Monday and the number of those on ventilators is up from four.
Restrictions under the modified Phase 2 include:
— A mask mandate remains in place.
— Residents are asked to avoid gathering with those not part of their immediate household.
— Private and public employers are asked to use remote work when possible.
— The following business are limited to 50 percent of their capacity: Indoor dining, retail businesses deemed non-essential by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, gyms, barber and beauty shops and movie theaters.
— Restaurants should move as much dining outdoors as they can. Social distancing is required.
— Indoor gatherings at event or reception centers are restricted to 25 percent capacity up to 75 people.
— Outdoor gatherings at event or reception centers are limited to 25 percent capacity or 150 people when strict physical distancing is not possible.
— All sporting events are capped at 25 percent capacity.
— Places of worship will remain at a maximum of 75 percent of their capacity or the number of people who can physically distance with at least six feet between each immediate household. The State Fire Marshal will put out additional COVID mitigation measures to make services safer.
— For bars in parishes above 5 percent positivity, bars are closed to indoor sales and consumption but open for outdoor consumption at tables only and at 25 percent capacity, with a maximum of 50 people. Social distancing is required. Take-out and delivery will still be available.
For complete guidance on the new Phase 2, visit the Open Safely portal at opensafely.la.gov.