(The Center Square) – Three regions of Louisiana have seen an increase of COVID-19 cases in recent days even as the amount of testing has leveled off, state officials said Thursday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to announce Monday whether the state will move into the next phase of loosening restrictions meant to control the spread of the new coronavirus. Edwards didn’t say Thursday if he was leaning toward moving into the next phase, or whether he would consider issuing different rules for different regions.
But statistics Dr. Alex Billioux with the state Office of Public Health presented suggest the southwest, Acadiana and central regions of the state would not meet federal guidelines to further reopen. Edwards said he had not seen any indication that COVID cases will overwhelm health care capacity in any region of the state, which had been a concern when Louisiana was among the world leaders in case growth.
Louisiana has confirmed at least 4,200 new COVID-19 cases since June 10, and the increase cannot be explained by an increase in testing, officials said. Less than 10 percent of the new cases are in congregant settings like nursing homes, where large numbers of people live together, Billioux said, which means the rest reflect coronavirus spread in the general community.
Edwards and Billioux urged state residents to wear masks and maintain distance between themselves and others who are not part of their households. They also suggested consumers not patronize crowded businesses where people are not wearing masks. People who are sick or are at high risk of serious COVID-19 complications should continue to stay home if possible, they added, and even healthy people should try to limit the number of trips outside their homes they take.
“We’re still in the middle of this [pandemic],” Edwards said. “Don’t go in if it doesn’t look safe.”
Louisiana has required nursing homes to follow a testing protocol for residents and employees. Most have cooperated, though about a third have not, State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry said. He said state officials have warned noncompliant nursing homes that state officials could impose sanctions, such as withholding Medicaid payments.
State officials have set up a new crisis counseling number, which is 833-333-1132, intended mainly for people who are in recovery from substance abuse or mental health issues, though others are welcome to use it. That’s in addition to an already established number, 866-310-7977, for anyone who needs help coping and “keeping calm through COVID.”
David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business, and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018