Pictured is a temporarily closed Mikey’s Donuts in Ville Platte. (Gazette photo by Tracey Jagneaux)
Residents await word from Gov. Edwards on reopening
With the stay-at-home order handed down by Governor John Bel Edwards set to expire on May 1, many questions have yet to be answered as to what stage of normalcy Louisiana will return to once that order has been rescinded.
One indicator that Edwards is leaning toward removing that same order was revealed at his Monday press conference. During that conference, Edwards told the media that medical providers can begin to resume certain procedures that are deemed “time-sensitive.”
That means that any procedures that can be postponed without putting the patient at risk should continue to be delayed.
However, if the order is rescinded, do not believe for one second that the lives of Louisianians are going to go back to what they were at the beginning of this year.
There is no doubt that the people and the businesses throughout the state will still see a ton of restrictions in hopes of quelling what most believe will be a second spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Edwards did say that people must have “reasonable expectations” as to what the re-opening will look like. Having social distancing standards and wearing masks in public will more than likely stay in place for a long time to come.
Edwards re-iterated this same message in Wednesday’s press conference as he referenced not wanting to overwhelm the hospitals with a second wave of the virus. If that situation does arise, the Governor could reinstitute those same stricter restrictions that would bring us back to where we are today.
“We know it’s not necessarily a one-way street,” stated Edwards. “We would like for it to be a one-way street. But we’re going to have to move slow enough to know what’s going on.”
How much “re-opening” can we expect once the order has been lifted? Well, that will depend on several factors, including the number of tests that the state will be able to process and the number of contact tracers that are in place.
As of Monday, Edwards stated that the Louisiana needs to have a minimum of 140,000 tests in place to begin the re-opening process. On top of that, Edwards would also like to have at least 700 contact tracers in place. Currently the state has 75 Department of Health staffers working as contact tracers.
According to Dr. Chuck Aswell, physicians and medical providers are presently doing some of that work.
“As a physician, I am already involved in some contact tracing when I am faced with a patient that presents with positive testing,” stated Aswell. “But, we are not doing it to the level that the state is asking. That is why they are looking to get contact tracers on board. They will be tasked with the data collection necessary to figure out the best way to approach how we handle getting the state back on track.”
Aswell also pointed to antibody testing as another tool that will aid in the decision making process of how fast things will get back to some type of normalcy.
“In my mind it will be a week by week, slow process to get businesses and everyday lives to a viable point.”
One Evangeline Parish business owner who understands the need to balance the economic effects of getting the state opened back up against the need for making sure Louisianians stay safe is Louisiana State Senator Heather Cloud.
“I am a small business owner myself and I know that we have to get families back to work, especially the smaller businesses,” said Cloud. “Right now the Walmarts and the Walgreens of the world are open and they are taking in revenue that could be spent in the local businesses. We have to get back to a level playing field. Right now we are buying the economy and that is unsustainable. The economy will collapse if that continues. However, at the same time there is fear of another spike in cases. So, we also need to be smart about how we go about achieving our plan to get businesses back on their feet.”
Cloud acknowledged that while the economy must get back in working order, that a prudent approach is also necessary in that process.
“I think at first people were hesitant to take things seriously, but now they are taking it more seriously,” commented Cloud. “The use of common sense can and must be done. A very thoughtful and conscientious approach has to be taken. Those that are most vulnerable must continue to stay vigilant in their safety. We will have to come up with innovative ways to approach re-opening.”
Switching gears from the economic side of this pandemic, another area of concern for residents, especially in Evangeline Parish, is the re-opening of Chicot State Park. At this time, the recreational site is still being utilized by the state as a holding facility for persons being quarantined.
Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan Williams talked about moving forward with getting Chicot Park back to what it was intended for.
“I know right now that the park is still being utilized by the state as a designated quarantine area,” said Williams. “Once the state decides that it is no longer needed for that purpose, it will take some time to create an environment that state officials feel is safe for visitors. That means that the state will have to come in and make sure the virus is no longer viable in the park itself.”
Cloud realizes that the park itself is vital for the citizens of the surrounding area, not only because of its economic impact, but also because of its aesthetic impact.
“I have sent letters to the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor asking that they re-open the park as soon as possible,” Cloud said. “The park is a great place for people to go and find respite. We all have to be aware of our mental health as well as our physical health. I understand that the common areas and the playgrounds will have to remain closed. However, I want people to come and enjoy the park once again.”
As of Tuesday there were two people quarantined at the park.