Gov. John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards puts on a face mask.

(The Center Square) – Louisiana residents should not expect major changes to the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures when the current executive order expires next week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.

Bars across the state are closed, while other types of businesses are restricted to half of their normal capacity. Crowd sizes are limited and face coverings are required inside businesses and other public buildings and outdoors when maintaining distance from people who are not part of your household is not possible.

Business owners have sued to lift some of the restrictions and some Republican lawmakers have called for the governor’s emergency order to be overturned, citing the economic damage. Some lawmakers and business owners also argue the restrictions violate their constitutional rights.

State officials will do a “deep dive” into the state’s COVID-related statistics before making a decision, he said. But Edwards said the mask mandate in particular is part of the “new normal” and likely won’t be lifted anytime soon.

The current order expires a week from Friday. Edwards plans to issue a new order next Thursday.

Louisiana remains first in the nation for confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita, officials say. The state has an estimated 38,000 active cases, not counting the 25 to 40 percent of cases where the infected person has no symptoms and therefore hasn’t been tested, Edwards said.

The number of COVID patients hospitalized and on ventilators has declined in recent days, though Edwards said he would “need to see it continue over a number of days before we can say it’s a trend.”

At last check, the proportion of tests coming back positive was above 10 percent in every region of the state and was above 14 percent statewide, he said. Officials would prefer to see that number below 10 percent.

Also in every region of the state, the average number of people infected by a given COVID patient is greater than one, which also is a key metric in measuring the spread of the disease, Edwards said.

On Friday, health officials added 1,829 new cases to the ongoing tally, bringing the total number to 116,280.

The state has reported at least 1,500 new cases in a day 21 times in the month of July, including consecutive days of at least 1,700. On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state was now No. 1 nationally in cases per capita.

As of Friday, health officials are reporting 3,835 COVID-19 related deaths, an increase of 24 from the previous day. On Wednesday, Louisiana suffered its most COVID-19 deaths in a single day since April 21 (69), giving the state 135 over the last 72 hours.

The state is also reporting 108 “probable” deaths.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose for the first time in four days Friday, from 1,524 to 1,546 or 22 total. Hospitalizations, a key factor in the states reopening plan, have dropped by a total 44 over the last 72 hours.

The number of hospitalized patients on ventilators rose by 17 overnight and are at 222 statewide.

According to officials, Louisiana has conducted approximately 1,342,243 tests either through the state lab or commercial labs. That’s an increase of 24,853 tests day-over-day, which Friday's rate of positivity at 7.4 percent, better than the state’s goal of 10 percent.

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