We recently published a Straight Talk piece about what Phase 2 reopening looked like in Louisiana and how we could possibly move to Phase 3 by the first week in July … IF we stayed on the same COVID-19 trajectory, with lower rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. We were all looking forward to a Phase 3 re-opening so that our businesses could get back to operating, more folks could start going back to work, and the state’s economy could start humming again.
Not to be, I’m afraid. Today, as I write this (week of 6/26), we are backsliding noticeably in terms of COVID-19. I’m afraid many of our friends and neighbors in Louisiana have ignored repeated warnings from our Department of Health, the Governor’s Office and even me, through past Straight Talk articles. They’ve stopped wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and have started gathering in large numbers for noisy, tightly packed events.
This has led to a resurgence of what the health experts call “community spread.” That means we can’t blame the increase in new cases on institutional spread through close settings like prisons or retirement homes, or through more testing turning up more positive cases in people who didn’t have symptoms. Nope, these are cases resulting from people who have COVID-19, some of whom may not even know it, gathering, infecting more people and then moving on. It’s sort of the worst-case scenario if we are trying to return Louisiana to a normal economic footing.
YOU Can Stop Us from Moving Backward
ICU bed utilization is trending up again. Even with much tighter criteria for their use, the number of folks on ventilators is also growing again, after going down for almost two straight months. And worst of all, deaths from COVID-19 are also trending up again. (If you are curious about this data, go to ldh.la.gov/Coronavirus and flip through the charts.)
So, as a larger and larger share of our population chooses to ignore the risks, we are rapidly putting our economic futures, as well as the future health of everyone around us, in jeopardy. All bad.
So, Mike, is all the news bad? Don’t you have anything positive to say?
Best I can manage for you right now, my friends, is to remind you that I have an undying faith in the good sense of the people of Louisiana. That good sense could kick in any minute, and people will make an effort to NOT keep torpedoing our recovery here. That good sense could remind people to wear masks in public. To avoid mass gatherings of people who are shouting, singing and/or not wearing masks. That good sense means leaving at least six feet between you and the next person. And, that good sense means we will only leave home and potentially expose ourselves to the public when we need to. Not just for the fun of it.
What Happens If Things Don’t Improve?
I don’t know if people realize it, but we are at a crucial moment in our recovery. We could easily backslide right now and have to go back to a stay-at-home order. Is that what we really want? Do we really want to set our economy back even more than the hit its already taken in 2020?
That feels so wrong, and so irresponsible right now. I know we can do better. Can’t we?
Think about things like the federally enhanced unemployment payments. Hundreds of thousands of Louisianans right now are only getting by because of those payments. Their jobs were shut down by a combination of COVID-19 and really low oil prices. Those hundreds of thousands of people are going to need to have a job to go back to on July 31 when those payments are scheduled to end. It’s going to be critical that we can re-open our economy by July 31.
On our current trajectory, those 300,000 – 400,000 people who are currently out of work are going to stay unemployed if COVID-19 cases are still growing and the economy is prevented from fully reopening. So, we have five weeks to turn this around.
Five Weeks – Start Now!
Better get busy. Put on that mask. Keep your distance. Avoid unnecessary exposure to other people. Wash your hands a lot. Don’t touch your face. Stop gathering with a bunch of people whom you don’t live with and you’ve never even met, let alone you know their COVID-19 status.
Straight Talk is, we’ve got five weeks to fix this, or else a whole bunch of people are going to run out of money and not be able to go back to their jobs. It’s up to all of us to do the right thing for them and ourselves and get back on track.