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Louisiana Is Staying In Modified Phase 2 A Little While Longer

Ben Depp

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a new proclamation that says the state will remain in Modified Phase 2 for 28 days.

The first Modified Phase 2 order expired Tuesday.

The order comes as every region in the state is experiencing the highest level of community risk of transmitting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said it’s the worst it’s ever been.

“There has never been more COVID in Louisiana than there is right now,” he said.

Gov. Edwards addressed the state’s recent record of 105 deaths in one day during a Tuesday press conference, noting that there are the same number of seats in the state house of representatives chamber.

“I wonder how many of those 105 would still be with us if they had decided to turn down that invitation for the Christmas party or had that party not happened,” Edwards said.

Kanter, who is an emergency physician, said the information he and other doctors are receiving from patients is that they are contracting the virus from small informal gatherings. He noted that the daily case numbers, hospitalizations and COVID-19-related deaths are likely to rise as the effects of Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations begin to show.

“We’ve not yet seen a suggestion that we are peaking,” Kanter said. “The next couple of weeks are gonna be very challenging.”

Kanter and Edwards said there’s not much residents can do to avoid the consequences of holiday gatherings that have passed. They urged everyone in the state to focus on the future and follow Modified Phase 2 guidelines. That means people should avoid gathering with anyone outside of their households. Restaurants are limited to 50 percent indoor capacity. Retail spaces, gyms, barber shops and beauty salons are all still operating at 50 percent capacity.

These guidelines are not as strict as the ones in New Orleans, which is under a Modified Phase 1 order until at least early February. That order prohibits gatherings of people from different households, including at restaurants, where all patrons at a table must be from the same home.

Edwards and Kanter Address CDC Recommendation To Expand COVID-19 Vaccination To People Age 65 Or Older

“It is likely that we would adjust what is in Phase 1B Tier 2 when we move to the next group. That group may look a little different, a little larger,” Edwards said, adding that the impact of the expanded guidelines should have less impact in Louisiana because the state is already offering vaccines to people age 70 and older. The CDC’s original’s recommendation was to prioritize those age 75 and older.

The Trump administration announced that it will release its stock of the second doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to states in an effort to speed up administration.

“When people hear that, they think that we’re going to get double the doses. I wish that were true.” Kanter said. “People need the second dose. The challenge for us going forward is: until the federal government is able to give us a more predictable cadence of vaccine deliveries, until they’re able to tell us three or four weeks from now you will be getting this amount, we’re going to have to be thoughtful about those second doses and ensure that those doses are available for patients when their 21 or 28 days is up.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires that patients get the second shot in 21 days. The Moderna vaccine requires that they receive it in 28 days.

Typically the state learns of its latest vaccine allotments just days before they are received.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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