The State of Louisiana celebrated a milestone Friday, as many businesses that were closed by the governor's proclamation due to the spread of the novel coronavirus were allowed to reopen.
Mostly at 25% capacity, but steps were being taken to kick start the economy.
The move came as the Governor John Bel Edwards announced that testing throughout the state would increase in a major way so that public health officials could 'stay ahead of the virus.'
Serology testing, or seeking antibodies for COVID-19, was one form, and increased, regular coronavirus tests were the other. The governor said that the federal government had agreed to a partnership with Louisiana to increase COVID-19 testing to 200,000 per month.
The third, contact tracing, received a split reaction from the public. For some, the program seemed intrusive and violated privacy law. For others, the program represented a way to stay ahead of the spread of coronavirus.
Contact tracing will be an arm of the Louisiana Department of Health, and is a form of investigative health care. Individuals will make phone calls to residents who recently tested positive for COVID-19, and those with who they recently made contact.
According to the governor, 298 contact tracers have been trained so far and will begin making calls Monday at an increased rate. Early models predict that, at the height of the spread of coronavirus, Louisiana could need as many as 700 tracers.
If you want to apply, email ContactTracing@La.gov.
The governor also informed the public as to what number to expect a call to come from - 877-766-2130.
"Any one of us can receive a call from a contact tracer," Edwards explained, "It is important to pick up the call and participate."
Edwards reminded Louisiana citizens that working with a contact tracer is optional.
According to Edwards, tracers will call and inform the recipient that they have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Information regarding the individual who originally possessed the virus, including their name, will not be given. The tracer will ask several questions regarding your whereabouts and movements, and will then end the call.
Edwards explained that it was incumbent upon the people of Louisiana to continue mitigation and hygiene efforts, as well as social distancing. Edwards, a military veteran, said that there was a big rule to follow when claiming or pushing into new territory.
"You never want to fight for, bleed for, the same terrain twice," the governor explained.
Edwards was alluding to the potential for the state to revert to some old mitigation efforts or having to shut specific businesses down, again, if the analytics called for such a move. Edwards said that certain data points would be considered, including the number of new cases, the geographic area of the spike, the potential cause of the spike, and whether or not people were participating in the increased testing - of all types - in that area.
"We want to move forward, not backward," Edwards said, "but I am confident that (Louisiana) can do this responsibly."
The governor said that he believes Phase 1 will work and continue to move forward due to the resiliency of Louisiana's citizens, as well as their participation in the Stay at Home order. He believes businesses will participate in the mitigation efforts because they have an 'economic interest to do so.'
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