Amid the horrific destruction of Hurricane Laura, there was encouraging news involving Louisiana’s other epic challenge: The White House Coronavirus Task Force has upgraded the state’s rating from red to yellow.
Case totals have stabilized and positivity rates declined, the group’s report notes, and despite Laura’s disruption, Louisiana is “well positioned due to its strong mitigation efforts and will be able to expand testing and ensure testing in shelters.”
A yellow light still signals the need for caution, though, and as we begin a long holiday weekend, there’s reason to worry about a possible reversal.
That’s what happened at the beginning of the summer, when Memorial Day festivities helped fuel a second wave of COVID-19 cases after a widespread shutdown of activity had quelled the initial onslaught. Labor Day looms as another chance for people to gather, blow off steam and let their guard down. For the sake of long-term progress, this is a time to be extra-vigilant instead.
Among those warning that the holiday could prompt a setback is Gov. John Bel Edwards. Lest people read partisan politics into the Democratic governor’s missive, they should know that it came at the behest of Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of President Donald Trump’s task force.
“What we’re trying to do is get in front of that holiday and remind people that it’s critically important that we not do things that are going to unnecessarily spread the virus, cause more people to contract it and eventually cause more hospitalizations and deaths,” Edwards said.
That’s just common sense, but we’ve seen throughout the crisis that getting the whole state on the same page is a challenge. Some Republicans in Baton Rouge have relentlessly criticized the governor’s strict measures, which include a mask mandate, limits on gatherings and a shutdown of bars. The Jefferson Parish Council this week asked Edwards to allow parishes that meet certain benchmarks to proceed to Phase 3.
All Louisianans want the same things, a chance to return to work and school as normal, to go to a football game or hear live music or grab a drink with friends, to welcome paying customers back to our businesses. It remains amazing to us that Congress has not passed a new relief package to help those most impacted by the pandemic’s economic ravages get to the other side of the crisis.
Until that time arrives, we’ve all got a role to play in keeping the danger in check. And that should start with finding a safe, smart way to relax this weekend.