New Orleans Won’t Go with Business Tweaks Allowed Friday

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In much of Louisiana, restaurant owners are cautiously looking forward to opening some outdoor tables, and mall stores to beginning curbside service. But New Orleans won’t be participating in those slight relaxations of rules set up to slow the spread of the new coronavirus — even though Gov. John Bel Edwards cited it as meeting federal guidelines for a wider reopening.

Edwards has extended Louisiana’s stay-at-home order through May 15, with those two tweaks to start Friday. But New Orleans’ stricter rules will continue through May 15, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.

“Restaurants will not be allowed to host curbside seating and stores will not be allowed to open curbside delivery,” she tweeted Tuesday.

- Sponsors -

In a statement Monday night, she said, “It is absolutely critical for the safety of our people that residents continue to STAY HOME at this time, and not move prematurely to resume public activity.”

The changes will be allowed in neighboring Jefferson Parish, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said.

Edwards repeated Tuesday that localities are free to enact rules tighter than the state’s.

- Partner Content -

Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

Offering comprehensive energy efficiency at no cost to the consumer, Entergy’s Energy Smart program incentivizes Entergy New Orleans customers to perform energy-saving upgrades in...

New Orleans has had about 6,400 of the state’s 27,300 COVID-19 cases, and 410 of the 1,758 deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the state health department reported Tuesday. Jefferson Parish has seen 6,100 cases and 340 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest that many infected people never feel sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for others, the disease can be severe, even fatal.

The federal government will provide 200,000 test kits in May so Louisiana should be able to meet testing guidelines, Edwards said.

- Sponsors -

That will also allow tests of residents and staffers without symptoms in nursing homes, prisons and other facilities where people must live close together and the disease cropped up, Assistant Health Secretary Alex Billioux said.

“There are still some facilities with no COVID-19 cases,” he said.

Edwards was scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday, White House spokesman Judd Deere confirmed.

“I look forward to having a substantive conversation with President Trump about Louisiana’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our plans to re-open additional businesses next month, and our ongoing needs as we surge our testing capacity to 200,000 tests per month beginning in May,” Edwards said in a statement Tuesday.

The health department reported Tuesday that 154 of Louisiana’s 279 nursing homes and 73 of the 157 other adult residential care providers have reported at least two linked cases, with a total of about 2,900 cases and 580 deaths.

Billioux said it’s not clear how often to test symptom-free people at such places, since someone free of COVID-19 one day could become infected the next day.

Nick Hufft, who owns Curbside hamburger restaurant in Baton Rouge, said he was excited by the possibility of outdoor seating but wasn’t sure if his courtyard will open Friday, The Advocate reported.

“We are going to take the proper protocol to make sure we are ready to go. We’re not going to rush that,” he said. “First and foremost, the safety of our guests is top priority to us.”

Even widely spaced outdoor tables will allow more diners, putting more people back to work, Hufft said. “We’ve got too many good people not to give it a go,” he said.

Edwards said the New Orleans area’s falling rates of infections, hospitalization and testing capacity meet White House criteria for reopening, but those indicators continue to rise in the Baton Rouge area, northeast Louisiana and Acadiana.

Nonetheless, the changes to be allowed Friday mean “many businesses are able to, and should, safely and smartly return to commerce,” Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp said in an emailed statement.

Edwards said that if Louisiana’s infection rate keeps falling, he expects to begin loosening the reins on May 16, allowing churches, more retailers and some restaurant dining rooms to open at one-quarter of their legal occupancy rates.

“Small business owners are going to look at that and say, ’It’s not worth my time or cost to get to that level to reopen.’ So they’ll stay closed or with curbside service,” said Dawn Starns, Louisiana director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Until mid-May, however, Edwards’ March 23 order banning gatherings of more than 10 people, limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery and closing casinos, gyms, bars, theaters, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and salons will largely remain in place.

Businesses allowed to stay open during the virus outbreak have shown they can take steps to protect the public, and more should be allowed to do so now, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack said in an emailed statement.

Edwards said he consulted infectious disease specialists and other public health experts, as Louisiana ranks sixth in the nation for confirmed virus cases per capita. The Democratic governor said they used the White House guidelines for phased reopening, and Louisiana doesn’t yet meet the first phase.

Edwards’ first small step began Monday, allowing “time-sensitive” elective medical procedures, such as colonoscopies, biopsies and dental procedures.

CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System is scheduling such patients for treatment at branches in Shreveport, Bossier and Coushatta, Dr. Steen Trawick, the system’s chief executive officer and chief medical officer, told The Times of Shreveport.


By AP reporter Janet McConnaughey

Digital Sponsors / Become a Sponsor

Follow the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in New Orleans.

Email Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter