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Louisiana to move to Phase 3 starting Friday

Governor John Bel Edwards says the mask mandate will remain in place.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana will move into Phase 3 of the coronavirus recovery beginning Friday, Sept. 11, six months after the first case was reported in the state, Governor Edwards said Thursday.

"This is the hardest decision I've had to make to this point," he said. 

Edwards said that moving to Phase 3 does not lift all restrictions. He said he would layout the particulars on Friday.

"We need people to do their part and that's how we can be successful on striking the balance between public health on one hand and having our economy open on the other," he said.

Edwards continues to encourage social distancing and hand washing. The mandate to wear masks out in public will continue.

"The fear that I have is that any time you signal that things have improved to move to the next phase... people will hear what they want to hear instead of what they're being told," he said. "We have to be extremely careful with this."

While Edwards has not yet laid out what all of Phase 3 in Louisiana would entail, the White House Phase 3 recovery includes no limits on people returning to work, allows visits to senior facilities and includes limited distancing at restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and churches.

Bars have been closed statewide for nearly seven weeks. Restaurants are struggling while operating at a reduced capacity.

Many private businesses are following the state's lead to fill offices, and nursing home residents are desperate for even outdoor visits to resume.

“We are optimistic. I think that a lot of our families have been very vocal with their elected officials,” said Poydras Home CEO Erin Kolb.

Earlier this summer, Kolb sent a letter to the Department of Health begging for outdoor, strictly controlled visits behind a plexiglass barrier. She argued that eliminating family visits for residents is now doing more harm than good.

She’s optimistic that Thursday may bring good news.

“Our residents and our families are still very distressed and upset that they have to continue to be separated,” she said. “Our staff continues to do the best they can to engage with our residents individually and keep them connected through Facetime, but it’s just not the same.”

When it comes to reopening, the Coronavirus case numbers are driving the slowdown.

In an interview with WWL-TV’s Katie Moore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said,

“In terms of cases, we're seeing cases stubbornly flat in Louisiana. We're seeing test positivity in Louisiana at 7 percent which is higher than we would like. It's a bit lower in New Orleans proper.”

Despite those lower numbers, Mayor LaToya Cantrell implied the city’s timeline will continue to lag several weeks behind the rest of the state.

She cited thousands of evacuees from Lake Charles in the city, as well as behavior on Labor Day.

“It doesn’t look good for the City of New Orleans as it relates to the decisions that I will have to make,” The mayor said. “We’re not doing what we should be at the levels that we need to. Labor Day weekend was a problem.”

The governor is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

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