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Governor John Bel Edwards provides an update on the spread of coronavirus in Louisiana on Good Friday, April 10, 2020, at GOHSEP in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana Republican Rep. Danny McCormick, of Oil City, is one of several legislators beginning to question whether it’s time for Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to reopen the state’s economy. McCormick sent a letter to his fellow House members Thursday warning of a possible depression if we continue to keep the state’s businesses closed.

“It seems that the true goal of Federal guidelines to mediate the spread of COVID-19 has changed,” writes McCormick. “Originally, our goal was to flatten the curve and protect our most vulnerable citizens. … Our goal has rapidly transformed into the idea that no one should be exposed to or expected to contract COVID-19.”

Republican Rep. Richard Nelson, of Mandeville, also questioned continuing the lockdown of the state’s economy.

“While initially Draconian restrictions were necessary, they are not a sustainable solution,” writes Nelson. “The economic damage from these restrictions grows exponentially. An economic crisis is coming, and our present condition will soon become unbearable.”

Republican Rep. Mark Wright, of Covington, is calling for the governor to end the statewide stay-at-home order by the end of this month. He says Louisiana’s economy cannot sustain an extension of the order.

“We cannot continue with these drastic measures as unemployment soars and countless small businesses close their doors permanently. Two of our largest sectors, tourism and oil and gas have been wiped out, with little hope in the future,” said Wright. “Our state faces an economic abyss that will challenge us for years.”

McCormick, Nelson and Wright are sure to face criticism for speaking boldly about opening back up the state’s economy. But do they have a point? Originally, we were told the drastic measures employed by our governor were designed to flatten the curve so our hospitals are not overrun with patients. But as of Monday evening, there were only 461 patients in the state on ventilators. The state’s ventilator use peaked on April 9 with 571. The state still has more than 1,100 ventilators available, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

It also appears Louisiana has peaked when it comes to new coronavirus cases. On Monday, April 6, the state reported its highest number of new cases in a 24 hour period with 1,857 testing positive. This past Monday, the state reported only 421 new cases the previous 24 hours. Monday’s 421 new cases are the fewest in the state since March 29.

Most would agree up to this point Gov. John Bel Edwards has shown great leadership in responding to COVID-19 and the devastating loss of life it has brought to our state. As of this writing, 1,013 Louisiana souls have lost their lives due to the coronavirus. But most would also agree the longer the economy remains closed, the more pain and suffering it will cause.

Think of the small business owner operating on a thin margin. They may have spent their entire life building their business. The longer the government forces them to close, the better the chance they’ll never reopen.

And then there’s the worker living paycheck to paycheck. The government can’t support them forever. As weeks turn into months, they’ll be forced to stand in long lines at food banks just to feed their family. How long can the government pay their rent, mortgage, or other bills that come their way? And what about social services? With an economy on life support, the government will run out of tax revenue and those depending on food stamps and other social welfare programs will suffer.

And then there’s the mental anguish all this uncertainty brings. It’s not healthy to be confined in our homes especially for those who live alone. There are many who are elderly in Louisiana who are very lonely right now, unable to visit their loved ones or friends.

There are no easy answers but the debate over what to do next cannot continue to be one-sided. We must weigh the cost of shutting down our economy along with the dangers of spreading COVID-19. McCormick, Nelson and Wright are courageous in doing so.


Email Dan Fagan at Faganshow@gmail.com.