Gov. John Bel Edwards formally extended Phase Two of Louisiana’s reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic for another 28 days.
The earliest the state could enter Phase Three would be Friday, July 24.
The new order, which goes into effect June 26, leaves in place occupancy and other restrictions of the previous Phase Two order, such as 50-percent capacity for businesses allowed to be open. It also limits indoor gatherings to 250 people.
Edwards announced the signing of the newest proclamation Thursday night, saying data from the last three days has made it “crystal clear” the state isn’t ready to advance to Phase Three and loosen more restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Some in Louisiana may be done with COVID, but I promise you that COVID is not yet done with Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have seen a resurgence over the last several days, reminding leaders of the virus’ initial outbreak in Louisiana.
Since Tuesday, the state has added 3,176 new cases to the total case count, the most in a three-day span since the virus’ peak in early April. More than 90 percent of the new cases were the result of “community spread,” not congregate settings such as nursing homes.
The total now stands at 53,415.
After taking a slight dip on Wednesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose again on Thursday, jumping by 22 to 653 statewide. Hospitalizations have increased in seven of the last 10 days, another “alarming” trend for health officials.
More than 3,000 Louisiana residents have died as a result of COVID-19.
Along with the recent spike, there’s been an “alarming” growth in cases among people ages 18-29, which is now reporting the most cases of any of the seven age demographics (9,570).
Of the total number of new COVID-19 cases the state has reported over the last three days, more than one-third (1,114) are among young adults ages 18-29.
While people under 30 are themselves affected the least from the disease — only 13 COVID-19 related deaths among that age group in Louisiana so far — they can spread it to the more vulnerable population, which include people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
“I especially want to call on the young people of our state… to take this illness seriously,” Edwards said. “This is the age group with the largest numbers of new cases and while you may think you are invincible; you are not. Moreover, you should make sure you don’t spread the illness to others, especially those most vulnerable to it.”
Edwards said his team will continue to watch the daily trends before doing a “deep dive” in 14 days “to determine if things are improving or getting worse, so we can make a plan for our future.”
The governor urged people to take mitigation measures seriously, such as wearing cloth masks or face coverings when out in public, staying home if you’re sick or experiencing symptoms, keeping six feet of social distance, and washing their hands frequently.
“None of us wants to go back to a time of greater restrictions, which is why it is incredibly important that all Louisianans take the necessary mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” Edwards said.