NEW ORLEANS (AP) — About 28,800 Louisiana residents filed for unemployment last week -- more than 12 times as many as a year earlier, but the lowest number since pandemic precautions began pounding the state’s economy. The number of was down nearly 11,300 from the previous week, according to state and federal data.

The agencies said about 321,700 Louisiana residents were getting state unemployment payments last week. That edged down about 3,400 from the previous week's peak but was nearly 24 times the 13,500 on unemployment a year earlier.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission did not immediately answer a query about whether slightly easing restrictions on businesses might have done the same for unemployment. Shopping malls, fitness centers, barbers and hair and nail salons were able to reopen Friday at 25% capacity and casinos could reopen Monday. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the changes May 11 to give companies time to prepare.

The state Department of Health said about 36,500 people have diagnosed with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus but numbers of hospitalized patients and those on ventilation continued to drop, to 884 and 107 respectively.

Nearly two-thirds of the 1,188 new cases reported Thursday were from labs that had not sent in data before, and some of those cases dated back to late March, said Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Alex Billioux.

“We also have increased testing," he said in a news release. "That only 6.1% of all these test results are positive is a good sign. Our goal is to keep that number below 10%, the goal set by the federal government.”

Billioux said officials believe they're starting to see the effects of comprehensive testing in nursing homes and other “congregate settings” and at workplaces where outbreaks have occurred.

“This is what suppression of COVID-19 looks like—and it is critical to moving our state forward,” he said.

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