Will Louisiana Ever Move Into Phase 3?
Louisiana is one of the top states effected by the coronavirus outbreak. There's no denying that. We have consistently been near the top of total cases, hospitalization rates, etc.. And we've been near the top since the very beginning. Experts believe that Mardi Gras and several other lifestyle factors have led to the impact of the virus on citizens of the state. I don't think that anyone can deny that the virus is real, has spread through our communities and has had an adverse effect.
However, thanks in large part due to the statewide mask mandate, the number of new cases, hospitalizations and other key factors have dropped dramatically over the past month or so. That is also indisputable. The other indisputable fact in all this that most of the spread has been confined to 3-4 regions of the state the entire time. And with the mask mandate in place, even those 'hot spots' are beginning to see massive decreases in cases and hospitalizations.
So, with all that said, what's the next step? We've been in Phase 2, or at least some version of phase 2, for a couple of months now. Bars are closed. Restaurants and other business still are forced to operate at 50% capacity or less. It's becoming a regular part of the 'new normal' to see businesses of all kinds to announce they are permanently closing. There is a strain on individuals. There's a strain on businesses. There's just a lot of pressure and stress on people of all walks of life with no real end in sight.
Governor John Bel Edwards recently announced that he was extending Phase 2 for two more weeks, just so we can deal with Hurricane Laura, its effects and see if that caused a mass spike in coronavirus cases in the state. I'll be honest, I can see the reasoning and logic behind that. I don't have to like it, but I understand it. But, what I don't understand, is how as a state we went from having a defined plan to just sort of making things up as we go along. At the very beginning, Phase 1, 2, 3, etc. all had clear definitions. However, currently, all that is out the window.
Phase 2 started as one thing. But then the governor closed bars and did a few other things where we kind of moved to a Phase 1.5....with no real goal line or target for what we need to do to take the next step forward. Like I said, while I don't always agree with the Governor, I can get the logic behind trying to protect people and keep them safe. Truly, I understand that. But, at some point, we have to move forward. Folks being out of work and losing everything they've worked their whole lives for is not a viable solution either and the state isn't doing a good job providing any kind of hope or optimism for the future.
And even if we did move forward, what would that even look like? We've already redefined Phase 2...so, if we moved to Phase 3, what would that even mean? Would it just be what Phase 2 originally started out as? Would bars, nightclubs and music venues be able to reopen? Would it require businesses to take temperatures or quick result COVID testing before patrons could enter? Seriously...what would it even mean if we got there?
The state of Maryland, which was in a similar position as us for a long time, recently announced that they were moving into Phase 3. Maryland set a plan and stuck with it. Now, they're reopening bars, churches, music venues...everything. Yes, there's capacity limits. But Governor Hogan said 'If we hit these milestones, we're going to do this' and they've followed through on it. It gave people hope, it gave them incentive to follow the rules and now they're getting rewarded for following the rules and guidelines. In Louisiana, we had goals and milestones...which have been thrown out the window. And now we're just sort of stuck in limbo not knowing where we're going or what's coming next. I truly believe that if the Governor came out and said "Hey, if you wear your mask, you can be at Tiger Stadium watching football next month" people would be more inclined to do that. But that's not what's happening. Not even close.
Maybe, over the next 2 weeks, John Bel will give us some direction or guidance. Maybe we'll have some goals and targets. Maybe, just maybe, we'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, strictly going off what I've seen since March 13th, I have very little hope that we'll get that. At the beginning of all this, businesses that didn't have to close due to COVID restrictions shut down because the Governor's order wasn't very clear. And even though we're close to 6 months into all this, the picture hasn't gotten any clearer.