BATON ROUGE – An increase in the coronavirus case count and its related hospitalizations led Gov. John Bel Edwards keep Louisiana under Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions for 28 days.
“We all need to do a better job,” he said during a briefing Monday at the State Capitol. “Some hoped or believed this virus would go away once we got to summer, but that’s not going to happen – we have a new normal, whether we like it or not.”
Edwards made the announcement on the heels of Monday case totals that exceeded 50,000 and a death toll that eclipsed the 3,000 mark. The total of 50,239 cases put Louisiana in the top 15 in the nation.
The extension also came the same day the number of hospitalized patients reached 630 – the most since June 2 and an increase of 90 over the last 10 days.
“That’s the number that concerns me most,” Edwards said. “It’s not a precipice that affects the capacity we need to deliver hospital care, but it’s a trend in the wrong direction that we need to stop so we don’t get close to lacking capacity to provide care in hospitals.”
Unlike previous increases, the current spike came from community gathering rather than congregate setting such as nursing homes.
Louisiana is among 23 states in which cases have increased since Memorial Day. Most of those cases have come in the southern region, extending from Texas eastward into the Carolinas.
The latest upticks have occurred among young people, according to contact tracing that showed more than 100 cases in the Tigerland area near LSU, as well as some areas in New Orleans.
The cases in those areas also coincide with a hike in the number of COVID patients between the ages of 18 and 29.
Young adults have been the most resistant among age groups for adherence to mitigation measures outlined by the White House and the CDC, Edwards said.
“They’re more hesitant to follow restrictions because they know they’re not in the same risks of following regulations seen across the country”, he said. “But just because someone is less likely to die or become ill doesn’t mean it’s not unheard of.”
Edwards said he knew testing would bring about more cases and the opening of the economy would also bring more residents out in public areas.
The relaxed approach to social distancing, masks and other mitigation efforts among residents played the increase, he said.
“With the mitigation efforts in place, it’s very clear that if we were doing a better job collectively as a state and if we’d adhere to the measures in place, we wouldn’t be seeing those increases today,” Edwards said. “It should also put an end to the theory that summer, with increased heat and humidity, would cause COVID to disappear – that’s not happening.”
The governor said will not add restrictions to the 28-day extensions unless the case count continues to increase.
“While we know that increasing testing means that we will see more positive cases, we are still troubled by the rising case counts across the state, especially since around 90 percent of these new cases are coming from the community and not from congregate settings like nursing homes,” Gov. Edwards said. “It is up to all of us to check our own behaviors and to take responsibility for slowing the spread of COVID. We do not want to have to go back to a time of increased restrictions where fewer businesses could operate. It is my hope that all of us – from government officials to business owners to students – will do the right thing.”