News for Thursday May 14th, 2020
Compiled by Dave Graichen
The state reports its biggest single-day COVID-19 case count increase since May 1, with 612 new cases. The Department of Health says 317 of those come from labs that are new to reporting and are now reporting their historic lab results electronically, meaning 295 cases came from the regular reporting across the state. Total cases: 32,662. 34 new fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 2,315. One confirmed positive trend is that the state has now dropped below 1,200 COVID hospitalizations for the first time since March.
After most of Tuesday was consumed by lawsuit reform arguments the Legislature managed to get some other issues moving through the process Wednesday. Legislation banning handheld use of mobile devices while driving clears the Senate and is headed to the House.
And the full Senate also overwhelmingly passed a bill giving voters a chance to decide if they want sports betting legalized in their parish. Metairie Senator Cameron Henry says if his proposal gets full legislative approval, the proposition will appear on the November third ballot. Henry says if residents in a parish vote for this proposition, then the legislature will decide how it will be taxed and regulated during the 2021 fiscal session…
A Louisiana House committee Wednesday advanced three “gun rights” bills including one that would allow people to carry guns into churches, regardless of what congregants say, as well as another that would remove a local government’s ability to regulate firearms at playgrounds, public buildings and commercial establishments in its jurisdiction.
Express Employment Professionals is hosting a drive-thru job fair today at Keys Park in Pineville from 9am until 4pm. It is a safe way to get the people displaced by the Covid-19 crisis moving forward. If you have a resume, feel free to bring along -- If not, they will help you create one.
KALB reports 20 year old Akeeley Blade of Alexandria, who is serving a life sentence for a 2017 first degree murder, second degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery conviction, has become the first person in Rapides Parish to file a motion to request a new trial based off a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring unanimous jury decisions. Blade was convicted by a jury on the murder charge in a non-unanimous verdict for the 2016 beating death of Michael Butler, who was staying at the Motel 6. That conviction carried an automatic life sentence.
While the House Appropriations Committee awaits a budget proposal from Governor Edwards lawmakers are planning what they hope will be an expedient path to passage. The proposal must include a billion dollars in cuts due to the COVID and oil related deficits, and House Appropriations Chairman Jerome Zeringue says the unfortunate reality of a billion-dollar deficit is that our constitution is clear on where those cuts must come from, that being healthcare and education. A balanced budget must be passed by the start of the next fiscal year, July 1st.
Today a slate of minimum wage and equal pay for women bills will be taken up by a House Committee that is known for routinely shooting down such efforts.
The LHSAA is withholding all activities until at least June 8th. The league sent a release Wednesday night saying it was freezing all sports, despite the Governor moving Louisiana into Phase 1 of its reopening plan on Friday. In that release, director Eddie Bonine stressed a concern for uneven implementation of return. The LHSAA gives the schools the power over summer workouts, but not all parishes are created equal, and he worried some schools would be able to return faster than others.
Two patients at a secure state mental hospital in East Feliciana Parish sued the state Wednesday, begging for release in light of a massive coronavirus outbreak that’s resulted in nine patient deaths. They say the hospital in Jackson, which has for years sought state funding to replace its decaying facilities, isn’t maintaining basic hygiene or isolating patients with coronavirus. Janitorial visits have become so rare that maggots grow in drains.
Republican Louisiana legislators said this week that many of their constituents are uneasy about contact tracing, a key tool in the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan to determine who has been in contact with someone who tests positive for the virus so they can quarantine and prevent further spread. As Louisiana residents have become eager to return to work and see economic revival, Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced what he sees as a reopening plan based on advice from health experts and White House guidelines. The plan includes ramping up the state’s COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing capacities to enter the first phase of reopening tomorrow.
Barbershops and hair salons will partially reopen tomorrow and the experience is expected to be drastically different. Setting hair appoints may become necessary. Director of the State Board of Cosmetology Steve Young says capacity limits will likely mean that waiting inside the business will not be an option, so waiting in the car will be the next best thing. Barbershops and salons have been closed since March.
The idea of axing Mardi Gras 2021 in New Orleans has been discussed, but in Lafayette, the outlook is to stick to business as usual. President and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission Ben Berthelot says if guidance is issued on how to best handle Mardi Gras closer to Carnival season, those measures will be taken. Fat Tuesday falls on February 16 in 2021.
Congressman Ralph Abraham pens a letter to Tesla founder Elon Musk inviting the tycoon to relocate his California based company to north Louisiana. Musk reopened his Tesla production facility in spite of California’s statewide stay a home order shuttering all non-essential businesses and is facing potential legal action. Abraham says a 1,400-acre site called Franklin Farm in his home parish of Richland would be perfect for the electric car manufacturer. Abraham says the I-20 corridor is ripe for a tech boom given the nearby technical schools and recent high tech investments.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser announces the reopening of 18 of the state’s historical sites, and 18 of the 21 state parks this Friday. Nungesser says state parks have lots of cancellations, so there has never been a better time for locals to enjoy what state parks have to offer. Nungesser says state parks are incentivizing residents to staycation and check out all the trails, the fishing, and more. On Saturday, the state’s nine museums will also reopen at 25% capacity. Welcome centers will reopen in phase two.
Some business advocates are frustrated that tattoo parlors, bars, and spas will not be allowed to open for business Friday. But Louisiana Department of Health Assistant Secretary Alex Billioux says it’s just not safe to open those sectors yet, and cited White House guidelines recommending places like bars remain closed. Billioux says the Phase One reopening still calls for extensive social distancing and only focuses on businesses deemed “low risk”.
The United Way is asking families how is the COVID-19 crisis impacting them financially? Louisiana Association of United Ways President Sarah Berthelot says you can go to launitedway.org to complete the ten-minute survey. She hopes to receive several hundred responses from every region of the state. Berthelot says they launched the survey on Tuesday and they’ve already had about one-thousand respondents.
The longstanding tradition of the Louisiana Farm Bureau holding its annual convention in New Orleans is not happening this year. Under normal circumstances, 1500 members and their families would congregate, but Farm Bureau spokesperson Avery Davidson says the 98th annual convention will be replaced by an event that looks much different. This year, a new Louisiana Farm Bureau president will be named.
Senator Bill Cassidy says the feds need to dedicate more resources to figuring out how we can get kids back in school. He says younger students are losing critical time in the classroom, and parents are struggling with them at home…