NEW ORLEANS — As millions of people across Louisiana embrace the end of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, Gov. John Bel Edwards wants them to stay safe by continuing to practice pandemic limiting measures such as consistent hand washing, wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
“The good news is we have made tremendous progress over the last several weeks,” the governor said during an interview with WWLTV on Friday. “There’s obviously a caveat because phase one is a gradual reopening of most businesses, not all, to make sure that we reengage more of our economy, get more businesses open, getting employees back to work, getting more of our people back on into stores and restaurants — doing it in a way that is safe. The worst thing we can do for the economy is to overdo it.”
The governor said reopening Louisiana in a safe way is a condition for a quick recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, economic and otherwise. He said all Louisianans have a role to play in keeping people healthy.
“We have to keep a lid on cases. We don’t want more people being ill,” Edwards said. “We don’t want more people in the hospital. We certainly don’t want more people dying.”
As many Louisianans are ready for things to get back to normal, some experts like the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said a second rise in coronavirus cases is possible. That’s one of the reasons Louisiana will be doing more testing, Edwards said.
“We’re going to get 200,000 tests per month. We’re going to be able to monitor the situation more closely,” Edwards said. “ Through contact tracing, we can quickly identify cases. We believe we’re going to be in a better place to keep that from spreading further.”
The threat of a second spike in cases is serious, and to fight it people should “do the right thing” and “be a good neighbor,” Edwards said. If Louisianans do that and have patience, “we’ll get through this.”
“We need people to simply be a good neighbor. Understand that when you wear a mask, you’re protecting others, and when they wear a mask they’re protecting you,” he said. “People should focus less on what they have a right to do and focus on what is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to wear masks. The right thing to do is to socially distance. The right thing to do is to wash your hands, and that’s what we’re asking people to focus on, being good neighbors like Louisianans are known to be.”
Before Louisiana felt the economic impacts of what would become the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s economy was doing well. The governor said Louisiana had the fourth fastest-growing economy in the country when COVID-19 hit. According to the governor, the best way back to that is to follow the phased approach from President Donald Trump.
“What we need to do is follow the president's phased approach where we're able to go to phase one and then, after a period of time, to phase two, and then on to phase three,” Edwards said. “We're moving forward in accordance with the President's plan.”
Members of the Louisiana legislature tried to end the stay-at-home order early, while Edwards met with Trump. The governor said the president was impressed with Louisiana’s success in flattening the curve during that meeting.
“It’s pretty odd,” Edwards said. “To come back to Louisiana and to see that there's so much partisanship going on in the midst of a public health emergency. If there was ever a time to govern, and not be political, not be partisan, it is right now. That's the approach I've taken with the president. That's the approach the president has taken with me.”