Gov. John Bel Edwards had a special guest Friday on his daily novel coronavirus media briefings as Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) joined him to deliver some remarks on the federal's part to play in response to the spread of COVID-19.
Cassidy spent the early period discussing the the financial stimulus packages, part one and two, expressing gratitude that the house passed - and president signed - the second round of funding for hospitals, testing, and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Cassidy, a doctor, was asked a question about reopening the economy - what's the best approach?
"(Reopening the economy has to be data driven," the senator said, "it has to make sense."
Cassidy said he agreed with Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the lead doctors on President Donald Trump's task force, as well as the president that certain benchmarks must be met for an economy to reopen.
Per President Trump's guidelines, as issued by the federal task force and explained by Dr. Deborah Birx, benchmarks must be met by states with regard to COVID-19 and it's spread.
Last week, the governor gave a rough sketch of what will be a 14-day window:
- 14 days of fewer people reporting symptoms
- 14 days of actual cases trending downward in the state
- 14 days of hospitalization decrease
"You have to be on a positive trend for at least 14 days, and they have to be the same 14 days for all metrics - this isn't over, say, a 42-day period," the governor explained. He went on to say that, although the state had an increase of new cases from Sunday to Monday, as long as the trend over those 14 days remains on a downward trajectory - Louisiana should be "OK."
Cassidy then echoed, as well, what the governor said about the speed with which an economy must move through the phases of reopening. It should only go as fast as the data allows it to, and the 'throttle' should be pulled back if certain benchmarks - specifically cases, deaths, and hospitalizations - start to spike.
But, there's more than just mitigation efforts and social distancing from keeping those metrics spiking when more businesses and sectors of industry begin to reopen.
Cassidy said that coronavirus testing must be "aggressive," and suggested that the state should not be shy with its methodology of employing regular testing and contact tracing.
"(The state) finds a community, even a single individual, who tests positive in a community, we have to react," Cassidy explained, "go door-to-door if you have to."
Part of the CARES Act was providing local governments with funding so that individuals who test positive after Phase 1 of the economic reopen begins can be quarantined somewhere else, perhaps a local hotel. The funding mechanism would allow local governments to pay for the lodging, food, and healthcare services while that individual remains contagious.
The idea being to take infected individuals out of the community for the time that they are contagious, to avoid further infection.
"A student could come home from school and have it," Cassidy began, "and I know our younger population handles (COVID-19) easier, but they have parents, and grand parents - and now they could possibly all have it."
Cassidy said the next step would be contact tracing, or seeing which individuals within a few 'touches' away from the first patient have made recent contact, and testing them.
The state is currently working on ramping up both regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing programs, although supplies remain short.
The Louisiana Department of Health is roughly 600 employees shy of being able to affect proper contact tracing.
The state has produced about 150,000 COVID-19 tests in six weeks, but needs to produce 200,000 in four weeks to consider safely reopening the economy, according to the federal task force - a number based on Louisiana's population.