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From the Editor: Louisiana watches COVID-19 flare up in the Sun Belt

Last week, as thousands were demonstrating across the country for racial justice, HBO Max caused an uproar by pulling down “Gone With The Wind.” The movie returned to the streaming service with some prefatory context about the treatment of African Americans in the old South.
GWTW wasn’t the only HBO Max offering that seems connected with current events. Scroll around on your smart TV, and you’ll find “Jaws.”
Just like Sheriff Roy Scheider, much of the country, especially the Sun Belt, is wondering what should be open on the Fourth of July.
Scheider’s problem, of course, was a shark. Our nemesis is COVID-19. And, just when you thought it was safe to go back to the mall, the coronavirus is back. Public health officials say it never went away.
Around Memorial Day, the debate about COVID-19 was about when and how fast to get the economy fully open again. What has happened since then happened hard and fast:
—In Arizona, the number of new cases is up nearly 29,000 in 10 days.
—In Florida, where reopening plans had seemed to proceed safely, nearly 43,000 people have tested positive in the last six days.
—In Texas, 70,000 new cases have been reported since June 1. (Louisiana has recorded fewer than 58,000 since counting began.) Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state’s hospitals to put off elective surgeries as Houston sees ICU bed usage approach capacity.
Louisiana has been spared the worst, but we haven’t been spared.
Since June 15, roughly at the end of a COVID-19 incubation period that started around Memorial Day, the number of positives is up nearly 10,000 in Louisiana.
Daily reports of new COVID positives showed 300 or 400 cases a day a month ago. Now they’re at 700 or 800 a day.
It’s easy to attribute the rise to increased testing, which would be expected to result in more positives. But the number of people being admitted to hospitals doesn’t depend on testing. And that number has grown by 167 to 737.
That’s far short of the state’s hospital capacity. But the trend was discouraging enough to lead Gov. John Bel Edwards to put off an order sending Louisiana into Phase Three coronavirus restrictions for another four weeks, until late July. In the meantime, we’ll remain in Phase Two with restrictions such as social distancing requirements in restaurants and limited capacity in businesses.
In St. Mary Parish, 98 positives have been reported since June 15 for a total of 457. Five deaths have been reported during that time.
St. Mary is part of Louisiana Department of Health’s Region 3, which extends east from the parish. St. Martin is part of Region 4, which is centered on the Lafayette area. Region 4 has become an area of concern recently, and St. Martin’s numbers reflect that.
The number of positives in St. Martin has grown by 334 to 685. The number of deaths there, which had been reported as 28, has been lowered to 27.
The number of deaths has not kept pace with the rise in infections statewide. The Louisiana Office of Public Health has recorded 185 deaths since June 15 for a total of 3,091.
Some public health officials say fatalities are a lagging indicator and may rise later. We’ll see.
In some states, officials are debating whether to bring back some of the economic restrictions that were in effect in March and April.
In a story by The Center Square’s David Jacobs from Monday’s Page 1, Edwards said he believes the increase in cases has less to do with the easing of economic restrictions than with people who ignore mitigation measures altogether.
In the meantime, we’re being urged again to wear face covering in public, practice social distancing, wash our hands frequently and stay home when we’re sick.
If we don’t, we’re going to need a bigger boat.
Bill Decker is managing editor of The Daily Review.

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