New Orleans may move to Phase Two in 'a few weeks', even is state does next week


New Orleans officials today are preparing people to expect more restrictive coronavirus measures to continue in the city while the rest of the state may take another big move forward in opening more businesses and expanding capacity at already reopened ones.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell this morning expressed appreciation for the community helping to stop community spread of COVID-19 and freeing up hospital capacity.

RELATED: Louisiana on the cusp of deciding whether phase 2 begins

"I want to continue to thank the public for responding to the mandates, to the proclamation that the city of New Orleans has had in place. we appreciate you.  We cannot get through without you," she said. "We have gotten to this point, again, by having people adhere to the guidance that we have put forth. We want to continue on that path so we do not regress, we continue to make progress as a city."

Cantrell however then said that she is not prepared to move into the next phase of reopening the city's economy.

"We are only, again, in week two of Phase One.  We have yet to see the impacts of our busy weekend of Memorial Day that just passed where we saw large gatherings throughout the city, but mostly in surrounding areas and surrounding states that abut us. So we are going to be looking, of course, at that data."

The mayor did not offer any timeline.

"To move into Phase Two, we have to ensure that we are hitting all of the appropriate milestones."

What are those criteria?

"The health care capacity, again, in our city.  Making sure that it continues to be, that capacity continues to be available and keeping up with the need every single day.  That we are we are not seeing dramatic spikes or moving back into community spread, because we have come... out of that community spread, but we need to see and continue to see the decline of new cases. Contract tracing in place."

"We don't know yet.  We don't have enough time to know the effects of reopening.  I know that the state is working on their Phase Two plans.  We're actively involved in that, and they might choose to move into Phase Two by the end of next week.  That would be three weeks from the beginning of Phase One," she told reporters.  "In my opinion that might be a little bit premature."

Avegno defended the city remaining more restrictive even if the state reopens more.

"Remember we've always said that New Orleans has to be more careful because what happens regionally affects us more than it does a lot of other places, not just regionally within Louisiana, but regionally within the Gulf South.  So, if we are more restrictive it's because we want to give ourselves as much data as possible."

The health director says it may be a while before the city moves into Phase Two.

"I hope that I will be able to get up here, you know, in a few weeks and announce our movement forward, but I wanted to make sure everybody understood where we are coming from."

Dr. Avegno says it is all to keep people alive and well.

"Our goal is to continue to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly, those at highest risk of hospitalization and death; while safely allowing the rest of us to have a more normal existence.  We will be wearing masks, we will be social distancing for a very, very ,very long time. And so the question will be, 'How do we bring an economy back online knowing that we have those limitations?'  So, that's our challenge.  We are doing well, I am encouraged."