Pandemic Debate: Statewide Reopening or Parish-by-Parish?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has mulled rules for possibly getting more businesses open next month amid coronavirus pandemic fears, he has so far rejected suggestions that he use a parish-by-parish approach.

A proposed “framework” for reopening issued this week by nearly 50 local and state business groups also discourages the approach.

“Variation in local measures related to public health and safety poses significant challenges, particularly for multi-jurisdictional employers that are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation,” said the report issued by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber on behalf of the groups.

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Still, as similar discussions take place around the world, some officials chafe at the idea of a statewide-only approach. Media reports in Lafayette say some local officials there want Edwards to adopt a parish-by-parish approach. And Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, the leader of the Senate’s GOP delegation, has posted an online petition calling for Edwards, a Democrat, to adopt a parish-by-parish approach.

Louisiana’s emergency stay-at-home orders and bans on gatherings of more than 10 people are set to expire April 30. Edwards is expected to announce as early as Monday how the state might begin to re-open the economy if certain benchmarks in White House guidance are met. Those involve the growth in cases, hospitalizations and the number of people reported with certain symptoms within a 14-day period.

The White House plan, which proposes criteria and methods for a phased-in approach to reopening, states that it is “implementable on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.” But Edwards said he’s not inclined to do that for Louisiana.

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“I don’t think trying to do it by parish is workable. I guess you could potentially do things by region, but that’s not really the direction that I’m intending to go right now,” Edwards said.

Louisiana’s number of known coronavirus infections, based on testing by the state health department and commercial labs, has topped 25,700. The death toll reached 1,540 as of Thursday.

However, the number hospitalized in the state dropped to 1,727 Thursday. It has consistently been under 1,800 in recent days after having peaked at 2,134 earlier this month. And the number of patients needing ventilators, 287 on Wednesday, fell to 274 Thursday. It had peaked at 571 in early April.

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By AP reporter Kevin McGill


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