BATON ROUGE, La. — “I apologize to no one for the decisions I have made,” said Governor John Bel Edwards Friday afternoon during a passionate response to petition filed by Republican lawmakers in the Louisiana House, demanding he overturn his executive actions on COVID-19 for a week. That would include phased reopening and the state-wide mask mandate.
“They’re acting as if that public health emergency is over and in fact, we have a public health emergency,” said Edwards.
Edwards says the petition is a move that would effectively end the COVID-19 public health emergency and could jeopardize federal money and state aid to local governments.
“It’s reckless and irresponsible and unconscionable,” said Edwards.
The move comes as spikes in new coronavirus cases are happening all over the county. Thankfully, Edwards says Louisiana is doing better than neighboring states but notes that can change. As of Friday afternoon, there were nearly 179,000 coronavirus cases in Louisiana and just more than 5,600 deaths.
“What we’re seeing now in our contemporary climate is hyper party polarization,” said Anna Mahoney, administrative assistant professor of women’s political leadership at the Newcomb Institute at Tulane University.
Mahoney says politically divided state government mixed with different views on solving problems is leading to the showdown.
“COVID itself being a huge economic and public health crisis is an opportunity then for those two different political outlooks to come to a clash,” said Mahoney.
Currently phase three restrictions allow most business to operate at 75 percent capacity, with required social distancing. Edwards says keeping those guidelines and the mask mandate in place isn’t something he’s willing to turn back on.
“The mitigation measures are working in Louisiana,” said Edwards.
As of Friday afternoon Edwards said he had not seen the full petition. Since it’s not a bill, he can’t simply veto it and it’s expected to end up in court. We did reach out to House leadership about this petition but did not hear back.