According to one metric, Louisiana is no longer in the red.
On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters that Louisiana is no longer considered a “red zone state” in terms of percent positivity for the novel coronavirus, according to standards by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
In July, Louisiana was one of 11 states that were in the “red zone” for percent positivity, meaning more than 10 percent of diagnostic test results came back positive. Edwards said Louisiana recently dropped to 9.4 percent and is now in the “yellow zone.”
However, Louisiana is still considered a “red state” regarding high incidence, meaning there were more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people over the last week. Louisiana currently has the fifth-highest incidence rate nationally, Edwards said.
“Obviously we still need to make significant progress, but that is evidence of the progress we have made,” Edwards said.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Edwards said health officials are seeing “encouraging” signs regarding new cases, positivity, and hospitalizations.
As of Tuesday’s data, average daily case counts in Louisiana have been significantly lower in the month of August (1,172 per day) than they were in July (1,825). The state reported 778 new cases on Wednesday, marking three straight days with less than 800 new cases. That hasn’t happened since June 17-19.
Positivity rate was at 5.2 percent on Aug. 17 (seven-day rolling average). That is less than half the mark on July 14 (10.7 percent), one day after the governor’s statewide mask mandate went into effect.
COVID-19 hospitalizations, a key factor in the state’s reopening plan, dropped by 44 on Wednesday and now stand at 1,160 statewide, the lowest since July 10. Since July 27, hospitalizations have fallen by 440.
Ventilator usage also fell to 175, the lowest since July 17.
Louisiana is currently in Phase Two of its reopening plan. Along with other Phase Two restrictions, Edwards’ statewide mask mandate, ban of on-site consumption at bars, and 50-person limit on social gatherings are intact for the duration of Phase Two.
To advance in the White House’s “Open Up American Again” plan, vetted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a state must see decreases in reported COVID-like symptoms, cases, and hospitalizations over a 14-day period.
Edwards said officials will meet “in the next several days” about what a new proclamation might look like next Friday, when his current order extending Phase Two is set to expire.
The reopening of K-12 schools and colleges statewide, Edwards said, is expected to further complicate matters since studies have shown that younger people are spreading the virus at a higher rate to the state’s more vulnerable population. Schools have been mostly closed since mid-March.
Edwards said the state will be “closely monitoring” the reopening of schools and colleges to identify trends and potential problems “as early as possible.”
“There is gonna be a lot more movement and activity and people coming into contact with each other… so we have to be especially vigilant right now that we all do our part,” Edwards said.