NEW ORLEANS — Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to make a decision Monday on whether the state will being Phase 1 of reopening the economy after more than a month of closures.
The governor's Stay at Home Order expires May 15, meaning some businesses will be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity the next day unless it is extended.
Sunday marked the lowest reported number of new COVID-19 cases with 128 since the Department of Health began reporting number March 23. The numbers over a two-week span will be a major deciding factor in when and how state and local leaders will lift Stay at Home orders.
Businesses are anxious to open their doors.
"We lost about 80 percent of our business," said Shawn Toups, owner of Lakeview Harbor restaurant.
He's open for delivery and take-out but is preparing to possibly allow customers back inside next weekend.
"We put 10 feet between each table, sterilize everything," Toups said.
He joined other restaurant and bar owners to send a message to Governor Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and President Cynthia Lee Sheng in Sunday's paper. They asked for a plan to reopen their businesses safely.
"We are small businesses and we ask you for your help to save our livelihoods. We ask for a plan that allows us to reopen our businesses safely," the ad said.
Toups believes they need more guidance.
"It just seems like we're always left in the dark," he said. "It's going to be a mad rush tomorrow or Tuesday with all the restaurants if they do open trying to get all the supplies we need to go by the guidelines they set."
The Stay at Home order is set to expire Friday in the state and in New Orleans. This could allow some businesses to reopen Saturday, but before entering phase one of reopening, the state needs to meet certain criteria issued by the White House. That includes a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases and individuals reporting symptoms over a 14 day period. Plus they need hospitalization capacity.
"We are doing a deep dive into the data," Edwards said Friday. "On Monday, everyone will be able to see what we see. We will make the decisions Monday."
To reopen safely, the state is ramping up testing and contact tracing. A team of 250 will work as contact tracers starting May 15.
"They will be critically important because that's how we will make our very best effort to be able to monitor the situation, see what's going on around the state of Louisiana, go in and test hot spots," Edwards said.
The governor will announce if Phase One of reopening can begin this weekend or if it needs to be extended Monday afternoon.