Week in Review, July 6-10: Two Steps Back?

NEW ORLEANS – A recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Louisiana – along with a more dramatic spike in many states nationwide – is causing anxiety and uncertainty not seen since the height of the pandemic.

In its Gulf South Index, the Ehrhardt Group, a New Orleans-based public relations and marketing firm, said that “as the case numbers across the Gulf South and the nation begin to rise, so does a renewed unease over the course of the pandemic. In fact, as of July 4, concern regarding the coronavirus is at the highest level since late April, as 59% of U.S. adults are reporting that they are ‘very’ concerned.”

New Orleans bars, restaurants and venues are bracing themselves for new restrictions that go into effect Saturday. Making matters worse, the $600-per-week federal boost to Louisiana’s unemployment insurance benefit is set to expire at the end of July and there are many questions about how the fall school year will begin next month. Add to this concerns about rising evictions, a hibernating tourism industry and doubts about an economic boost from the fall sports calendar and you get a dire picture moving into the second half of 2020. …

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Some of the week’s other top stories:

In a sign that the state’s COVID-19 numbers are moving in the wrong direction, the federal government is setting up four new drive-thru coronavirus testing sites in Baton Rouge, which is seeing spikes in confirmed cases of the disease. … In New Orleans, two restaurant stories show the complexity of running a small business amid the pandemic: The LeBlanc + Smith restaurant group has invented an entirely new business model – including giving all employees salaries and insurance benefits – to keep its restaurants running. Gris Gris owner Eric Cook, meanwhile, wrote a searing critique of officials’ COVID-19 response after one of his employees tested positive for the disease and he had to shut down after being open for five days. … The AP reports that Penn National Gaming will lay off nearly 1,150 workers at Louisiana locations next month including about 161 workers for L’Auberge Hotel and Casino in Baton Rouge and 200 workers for Boomtown Casino in Harvey. … New Orleans entertainers – and the professional service providers who work for them – are having to build new income streams to survive the pandemic. … More events are either being moved online, postponed or otherwise reinvented to adapt to the COVID-19 health regulations. The list includes the annual Tulane Business Forum, the National Fried Chicken Festival, the Girod Street Roll and the Beignet Fest. … One bit of good news: thanks to reduced driving during the pandemic, State Farm announced it lowered Louisiana auto insurance rates by 9.6%

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