Phase 3: Gov. Edwards activates new guidelines; local officials comment
As the state moves into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic, local officials weighed in on the possible impacts of the measures.
St. Mary Parish President David Hanagriff said, “The governor went to 75% in different (restaurant) categories, which is fine, and I’m okay with that. Most of the areas we have right now with the six-foot distancing they probably won’t even be able to reach the 75%.”
Hanagriff said he disagrees with the governor on bars. “I don’t believe our percentages have been calculated correctly from day one,” he said. “Right now we’re between 10 and 12%, and that’s not accurate. I personally am going to look at calculating my own numbers based upon true numbers. If we’re at 5% or less, then I am going to do an executive order allowing bars to open again under the 25% capacity.”
The parish president said he is at issue with the way cases are tabulated. “Nursing homes and jails,” he said. “Which is what they’re doing. People in nursing homes aren’t going to bars and neither are people in jails. So how are you going to calculate our numbers and keep all our businesses down and closed based on those numbers? I think it’s horrible, so I’m going to calculate my own numbers and go with that.”
His suspicion about the numbers revolve around such figures as an explained -2%.
St. Mary Parish OEP and Homeland Security Director David Naquin somewhat echoed Hanagriff’s comment.
“According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, that’s who gives out the numbers, we have been in single digits since Aug. 12,” he said. “But we haven’t been below five. We’ve been in the six, eight, seven, nine in positivity rate…I don’t see how they got that number.”
Naquin said the positivity rate, according to LDHH, as “the number of positives divided by the number of positive and negative tests of the specimen collection. So if, like last Thursday, we had 67 tests run, with seven positives. That put us right at 10 percent. But 60 of the 67 were in the nursing home. (LDHH) said, ‘That’s in your parish.’ Yes, but them people aren’t out at McDonald’s, Walmart, grocery stores, that’s congregate setting. You should not count those. I don’t see how those people could affect anybody.”
With the opening of Phase 3, Gov. John Bel Edwards controls the statistics. “So why even put in your proclamation that some parishes can opt out?” Naquin said. “No you can’t, because you control the numbers, and the numbers don’t reflect what’s going on in St. Mary Parish.”
While there are still cases in St. Mary, he said, but “I can’t tell you the percent because you’re counting people that aren’t in the community…they’re about to test everybody in the jail again. That’ll be another 200 tests. I think this Phase 3 is fake. It should have been 2.5 or something.”
The new mandate for restaurants is also problematic, Naquin said. “Once you socially distance your tables, you can go to 100%, but you can only get X-number in there. So you’re not going to increase how many people you can have as long as your tables are distanced.”
Recent reports of 1,100 new cases in the state and 500 of them date back to July 1. “Why even report that? What does that do? Okay, we have to report it, then you tell me out of that 500 how many are in St. Mary Parish? He said, ‘We can’t determine that.’ Yeah, you can, I’ll get some sixth graders up there to write you a program to get all of this done.”
Franklin Mayor Eugene Foulcard remarked, “We are going to follow whatever the governor has mandated. Thank God we have moved into Phase 3. We can get back to a little more normalcy.
“I would ask everyone to continue to be safe and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe, and we will go from there.”
Abel “Phil” Prejean, mayor of Baldwin, reported that he did not believe that moving from Phase 2 to Phase 3 would affect Baldwin very much as there is only one restaurant in the town, and they don’t serve alcohol.
However, he did say that the Baldwin Community Center will remain closed to the general public, and that due to COVID-19, he didn’t foresee it being able to be used as an evacuation center this year, should a major storm affect the area.