Louisiana Businesses Urge ‘Stay Home, Safe at Work’ Approach

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 16-page set of recommendations for safely re-opening a Louisiana economy staggered by the fight against the new coronavirus was released Wednesday by state business interests as Gov. John Bel Edwards weighed his next move.

Louisiana’s current stay-at-home emergency order, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and forcing closure of many nonessential businesses, expires April 30. As debate continues around the nation over when and how to reopen, some Republican officials around Louisiana have expressed eagerness to start reopening at least some businesses May 1.

The Democratic governor has been reluctant to speculate on what will be done next, preferring to wait for more data on the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He said it’s still too early to say what will happen on May 1, though he did say he won’t simply extend what’s in place.

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Members of a group Edwards assembled to help plot the course of restarting the economy — the Resilient Louisiana Commission — were holding their first meetings, by telephone, Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber released “A Preliminary Framework for Louisiana’s Economic Recovery” on behalf of nearly 50 local chambers and business and industry lobbying groups.

The report suggests a “Stay at Home and Safe at Work Order” with safety rules for businesses that could reopen as early as May 1, “or the best date advised by healthcare leaders.” The early emphasis would be on opening workplaces as safely as possible while maintaining guidance calling for people to “avoid congregating and social interaction in large groups.”

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Among other things, it emphasizes the need for a “full restart to the healthcare industry, to include restarting elective procedures, clinical visits, routine screenings, and preventive and mental health care following proper safety protocols.”

The state already plans to allow some “time sensitive” elective surgeries and other non-emergency procedures beginning Monday.

The report also stresses the idea that a strong health care sector cannot survive without a strong overall economy. And it has extensive recommendations on workplace safety, the need to prepared for a possible “second wave” of infections, efforts to encourage customers to return to opening businesses, day care needs and help for minority- and women-owned businesses and rural businesses trying to navigate complicated federal aid programs.

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The efforts take place against a backdrop of daily COVID-19 statistics numbers both sobering and hopeful. Louisiana’s death toll from the virus continues to rise, reaching 1,473 on Wednesday, an increase of 68 from the day before, according to figures released by the state health department. The number of known cases of coronavirus infections, as officials continue to work to increase testing, reached 25,258, up from 24,854.

However, the number hospitalized in the state dropped to 1,747 Wednesday. It has consistently been under, 1,800 in recent days after having peaked at 2,134 earlier this month. And the number needing ventilators, 287 Wednesday, had peaked at 571 in early April.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that usually clear up within weeks. For some, it can cause severe illness and be life-threatening.

 

By AP reporter Kevin McGill

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