Louisiana Halts Next Phase of Reopening As Coronavirus Cases Spike

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards halted the state from moving into Phase 3 of its coronavirus pandemic reopening Monday, citing a major spike in cases and hospitalizations this past week.

Louisiana is the latest state to halt their reopening process, as Governor Edwards postponed Phase 3 for another 28 days, but his office will review the decision in two weeks. The move to keep Louisiana in Phase 2 renews current restrictions on occupancy and interaction for businesses, health care facilities and government operations statewide. Phase 2 had been set to expire Friday, but the state health department reported 461 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths Monday. Louisiana surpassed 50,000 total COVID-19 cases and the state's overall death toll now sits at 3,004.

The governor announced that state officials still plan on reopening schools and college campuses in the fall, although he offered some "pause" to that being a final decision. Baton Rouge area businesses were singled out for producing a cluster of new cases and Edwards relayed statistics showing hospitalizations statewide increased for the first time in nearly three weeks.

Edwards signed the executive order to move the state into Phase 2 on June 4, saying at the time he was "very proud" of the health care workers and residents who practiced social distancing. Bars, shopping malls, breweries, pool halls, swimming pools for recreational, massage facilities and spas were among the types of businesses that began reopening at Phase 2. Edwards said state health officials will begin making more visits to bars, restaurants and other businesses to ensure they are following mitigation rules. If they are found not to be putting social distancing mandates in place, they will lose their license for 30 days.

Louisiana bars are limited to 25 percent of their seated occupancy and Phase 2 time limits will remain in place at businesses such as tattoo parlors. Edwards' new order halting Phase 3 also requires employees of businesses that require person-to-person interaction to wear face coverings or protective masks during all interaction. Edwards noted that he believes an overwhelming majority of businesses are complying with the orders but that number should be 100 percent.

He particularly called out a series of popular "Tigerland" bars in Baton Rouge for producing a cluster of cases that emerged over the past 10 days. He quipped that alcohol appears to have impaired the judgment of the visitors to those bars.

"If you go to a business and they're not operating safely... go somewhere else or go home," the governor said during his Monday announcement.

john bel edwards
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards halted the state from moving into Phase 3 of their coronavirus pandemic reopening, citing a major spike in cases and hospitalizations this past week. Joe Raedle/Getty