As Gov. John Bel Edwards considers how best to move the state’s economy forward, citizens and their health must be the top priority.
The governor is hearing from a lot of parish leaders and business executives that the state’s economy must be “opened” to limit further economic and financial damage and to start down a path that will help us regain our footing as a conference, meeting and vacation tourist mecca.
The governor recently named an economic task force and our top health officials are working to determine how we might get back to business with a phased approach. The 18-member Resilient Louisiana Commission has been looking at options and the panel is expected to provide the governor with guidance and suggestions so he can make an informed decision about how to proceed.
As he should, Edwards is listening to Louisiana-based business interests and public health and community advocates as he seeks counsel from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Edwards targeted April 30 as the last day of our flattening-the-curve stay-at-home order, making May 1 the most likely date for lifting some restrictions.
As the commission considers options and as the governor determines what to announce, these decisions should be guided and informed most by scientific and public health data. We shouldn’t ignore the public health models showing that we’re not going to be done with the coronavirus any time soon.
According to the CDC, it is quite possible we’ll get another wave this year. One eye should always be on the capacity of our health care providers, who have worked so hard during the pandemic, to deal with any new surge in severe cases.
As the governor announces some form of phased openings, we suggest that those in our most at-risk categories continue to stay home and that business leaders, owners and managers understand that that’s for the best.
Here in Louisiana, we see ourselves as people who play hard and work hard, so all of this idleness and economic loss has been difficult to take. Our two key industries, energy and tourism, are both suffering and will take time to mend.
At the same time, too much loosening of restrictions will invite a return of the disease at a time when the numbers of cases and deaths give us reason to believe the worst may be over.
The governor’s stay-at-home business limits were direct, and necessary. The best course is a smart, phased — and regulated — opening.