News for Wednesday March 18th, 2020
Compiled By Dave Graichen
In the last update for the day, the Louisiana Department of Health reveals that 196 cases of COVID-19 have been found in the state so far up from 136 Monday. 136 are found in Orleans Parish. East Baton Rouge also finds it’s first case. Four people have so far died from the virus, with two of the victims coming from a New Orleans nursing home that’s seen a number of cases.
Chicot State Park in Evangeline Parish will be utilized as an overflow area for possible COVID-19 patients from certain regions of the state. Liz Hill, Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security for Evangeline Parish, confirmed Tuesday night that the state park is being set up for those who may need to be quarantined due to the virus, but who cannot return to their homes or residential facilities. Hill said those that will be able to stay at the park will come from Regions 4, 5, and 6, which is the Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Alexandria area. There, Hill says, patients will be cared for by health care providers.
The Governor ordered the closure of a number of businesses Monday, and restrictions on restaurants as a result of the growing number of cases, and the 2020 Legislative Session was suspended until March 31st as a result. Southwest Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins isn’t happy about that decision. Higgins says it’s an infringement on people’s rights and questioned the Governor’s authority. The Governor’s office has responded saying Congressman Higgins clearly cares more about Facebook views than Louisianans.
The restaurant industry is having to adapt to the precautionary closings of dining areas. President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Stan Harris says there is a fear of the unknown within the industry as questions remain as to how long this could last. The Governor’s proclamation deems operations may be able to resume on April 13, however, the situation will be reevaluated a week prior to that date. Restaurants are still allowed to serve food via drive-thru window, curbside pickup, or delivery. Restaurants are adapting and Harris says the industry is grateful for these exceptions.
With many workers being laid off the Louisiana Workforce Commission is expediting results on COVId-19 related unemployment insurance claims and loosening requirements for those collecting benefits. LWC is waiving the requirement that workers wait a week from their last paycheck to file a claim. The easiest way to file a claim is online at www.louisianaworks.net/hire.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder says committee hearings are already scheduled and bills are in order to start moving when the legislative session is scheduled to resume on March 31. Schexnayder says he and Senate President Page Cortez have worked on a contingency plan in the event that COVID-19 slows down things even worse, but he does not foresee that being an issue.
Congress and the President are discussing a massive series of potential bailouts and financial aid packages to counter the economic devastation being caused by COVID-19. A growing number of lawmakers and the President are backing a plan to send every American a check in the next few weeks. Senator Bill Cassidy says that is one of the plans would send a check to every American. Lawmakers are debating how much the check should be, but the most common number proposed is 1,000 dollars. The price tag for this economic intervention is huge, likely over 800 billion dollars, but Cassidy says it must be done and can be done responsibly..
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry says state companies are getting hammered right now as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns. LABI President Stephen Waguespack says the crisis is an major threat to the state’s 450,000 small businesses that employ 900,000 people whose jobs are now threatened. LABI is also encouraging residents to buy gift cards from local impacted businesses, and order online to support them. Waguespack says if you want to see those businesses reopen, you have to support them.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is seeking a waiver so they can cancel standardized exams for this year, which would also mean test scores would not be part of a teacher’s evaluation. BESE President Sandy Holloway says certain requirements for graduating seniors have also been set aside. BESE has already decided that annual school performance scores will not be announced next year.
Here's something positive on a grim news day: Jazz Fest will happen this fall. The annual two-weekend festival held in New Orleans was canceled because of COVID-19, but organizers announced Tuesday that it will be rescheduled for the fall. No dates are set yet, but more details and new dates will be announced soon, they say.
All purchases for the original dates will be honored for the fall dates.
Drew Brees and the Saints have reportedly agreed to a new two-year 50-million dollar contract to keep the future hall of famer in New Orleans. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says he’s getting old but Brees can still win games. There are some Saints fans who believe the team should turn to backup Teddy Bridgewater. But Bridgewater is reportedly finalizing a deal with Carolina.