The novel coronavirus began to spread in Louisiana a few weeks after Mardi Gras.
It re-emerged in alarming numbers a few weeks after Memorial Day.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself after Labor Day.
“If we want to be successful, we really need to be mindful of this Labor Day weekend,” Edwards said Thursday.
With the upcoming Labor Day holiday, Edwards has repeatedly warned Louisiana residents over the last week that the state could see another spike in cases — which would then lead to an accompanying rise in hospitalizations — if people don’t follow mitigation measures this weekend.
Though most of the governor’s attention has been on the ongoing recovery of southwest Louisiana following the destruction of Hurricane Laura, he has made a point to remind people of the state’s continued fight against COVID-19 in every press conference.
This week, Edwards has stressed to the public the importance of staying vigilant during this time, especially as the state sees an increase in activity and movement. Nearly all universities and K-12 schools have reopened in some form, and there are thousands of out-of-state visitors assisting in relief efforts following Hurricane Laura.
“We have an awful lot of movement and people coming into contact with one another,” Edwards said Thursday, days after saying there hasn’t been this much activity in the state since before the public health emergency began.
Heeding advice from Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Edwards has ramped up his warnings to the public as the calendar draws closer to Labor Day, which has the potential to derail the state’s reopening efforts.
In recent days, the governor has spent much time recalling what happened after the Memorial Day weekend, a time health experts agree led to a more widespread surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Louisiana and across the rest of the Sun Belt.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day eight times before May 25 (Memorial Day). That initial surge led to more than 2,000 hospitalizations, which were mostly confined to the New Orleans area, the hotbed for the virus at the start.
Following the initial wave, the state successfully “flattened the curve” and didn’t report more than 1,000 new cases in a day from April 10 - June 22. Likewise, hospitalizations dropped to less than 550 in mid-June.
But the situation changed a few weeks after Memorial Day as people gathered for weekend celebrations, something Edwards has pointed to and warned against several times in the last week.
From June 23 - Aug. 14, the state reported at least 1,000 new daily cases 36 times, not accounting for updates that included two days. That led to a high of 1,600 hospitalizations on July 27, with many healthcare centers at the time claiming to be overwhelmed.
“We know the last surge in cases started with the Memorial Day weekend,” Edwards said Thursday.
With the summer surge in cases and hospitalizations, Edwards has delayed the state’s reopening plan multiple times. Louisiana entered Phase Two of reopening on June 5 and has remained there ever since, following a four-week extension in June, a two-week in July, a three-week extension in August, and a two-week extension last week.
The current Phase Two order is currently set to expire on Friday, Sept. 11.
This week, Edwards has advised residents to avoid “those informal, backyard gatherings” that health experts such as Birx have said “a considerable amount of spread comes from.” If people do engage in such activity, Edwards has implored them to adhere to mitigation measures such as maintaining social distance, wearing a face mask, and practicing good hygiene.
For a second time, it appears Louisiana has successfully flattened the curve. The state hasn't reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day since Aug. 14, and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since July 2 (851).
But it could all change for the worse of people are not careful this weekend, Edwards said.
“What we don’t want is a repeat of what we saw on Memorial Day,” Edwards said. “It’s so much more important now that people do things safely. If you celebrate, make sure you do so in a way that is safe.”