No reason to celebrate just yet

LOUISIANA REOPENING — The Pelican state is reopening under Phase 1 of the coronavirus pandemic, but those who are susceptible to COVID-19 plan to be hesitant about making any major changes because too many citizens aren't following safety precautions.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday the state would begin the first phase of reopening Louisiana’s economy Friday, but many of us won’t be celebrating until people get a better grip on the coronavirus pandemic. Barbershops are reopening Friday, but some of us who are in bad need of a trim won’t be rushing back.

The reality is that too many people in this state aren’t seriously concerned about wearing masks, observing safe distancing, avoiding large crowds and staying at home whenever possible.

Restaurants have been able to serve patrons on outside patios without waiters, but I saw one outdoor tent area that was packed with people who weren’t worried one bit about safe distancing or wearing masks.

Beginning Friday, indoor dining will be allowed, but only at limited 25 percent capacity.

Business owners were by asked by The Advocate if they could survive at 25 percent capacity, and most said it would still be a struggle. Others said they couldn’t make it until 50 percent capacity became a reality.

Businesses like restaurants and stores are always reluctant to get tough with customers, and that is certainly understandable. It’s the customers who will ultimately call the shots and many have resisted constraints of any kind.

Will customers really observe that 25 percent limitation and wear masks? Employees are supposed to wear masks, but will they?

I have made only one stop at a local business since the current stay-at-home order was issued, and the clerk who checked me out had his facemask hanging from just one ear.

Masks aren’t worn to protect the wearers, but others with whom they come in contact. It’s respect for everyone else that is so important.

Nathan Ryan, a Baton Rouge minister, put it best in a letter to The Advocate titled, “Take precautions because you love mankind.”

“I am staying home because I love you,” Ryan said. “I am wearing a mask because I love you.” He said his family matriarch died alone of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, so that none of her family would catch the disease

“She deserved better,” Ryan said. “This woman who was always there for her family deserved better. If you want the world to get back, like I do, demand more tests. Demand a government that does its job — not one that stokes infectious protests and fake divisions — by giving us the tests we need … You deserve better. She deserved better. We all deserve better.”

While we are on the subject of tests, someone please explain why the White House is just now strongly recommending that governors test all residents and staff at the nation’s nursing homes. This comes more than two months after the first outbreak of the virus at a Seattle, Wash., nursing home.

More than 27,000 residents and staff at more than 15,000 of the nation’s nursing homes have now died from the virus, which is about a third of the 80,000 deaths in the U.S. When asked, President Trump said some of the governors were lax with respect to nursing homes, “right from the beginning.”

Nursing home operators said the lack of testing kits left them nearly powerless to stop the virus. No one in government at any level is willing to take the blame for that problem. A professor emeritus of nursing in California also wants to know why testing is just now being emphasized.

“We’re two months into it,” she said. “If they had done that to begin with, we would’ve picked up cases early and we wouldn’t have so many deaths.”

The Louisiana Legislature is meeting now, and another puzzler has cropped up there. Lawmakers got word Monday from the Revenue Estimating Conference that the state budget for next year was going to take an estimated $1 billion hit because of a sagging state economy.

Increased appropriations had been planned for childcare, higher education, health care and other state services, but those plans are out the window. With that grim outlook, you can’t help but wonder why legislators are in the process of cutting franchise and severance taxes to the tune of nearly $900 million.

Oil and gas and other businesses have endured some tough times, but faced with cutting a state budget by nearly $2 billion means health care and higher education, which aren’t protected from budget cuts, will be slammed.

State and local governments are getting some financial help from the federal government, but, as of now, it can only be spent on coronavirus pandemic expenditures.

Daily life is supposed to get easier Friday, but will it? The state is still facing some serious problems of all kinds, financial and otherwise, and solutions have been hard to come by. Edwards expressed the current situation well.

“While we’re easing restrictions, … it’s not mission accomplished,” the governor said. “We’re not declaring victory. There’s still COVID out there.”

Yes, it is still out there, and I plan to keep dodging it, whatever that takes.

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Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday the state would begin the first phase of reopening Louisiana’s economy Friday, but many of us won’t be celebrating until people get a better grip on the coronavirus pandemic. Barbershops are reopening Friday, but some of us who are in bad need of a trim…