(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday announced plans to tweak his COVID-19 emergency regulations to allow for larger crowds at high school sporting events.
Edwards said he made the decision following discussions with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez. The change is a concession by the Democratic governor to Republicans frustrated by the ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions and their lack of input in the decisions to impose the mandates.
High school football crowds previously were limited to 25 percent capacity. Starting this weekend, the threshold can be raised to 50 percent in parishes where the proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is less than 5 percent for two weeks. Currently, 26 parishes meet that standard, according to state officials.
Legislators in either chamber have the ability to end a state of emergency, though Republicans have not yet been able to gather enough signatures to overturn the governor’s order. Legislators recently approved House Bill 4, which would allow legislators to amend an emergency order with a majority vote in both chambers, so they would no longer be limited to an all-or-nothing decision.
Edwards has not said whether or not he will veto HB 4, though he has stated that he doesn’t think emergencies are best managed by committee and that he has no intention of giving up any of the tools at his disposal. He said he remains open to “reasonable conversations” with lawmakers about his mandates – which restrict business capacity, limit crowd sizes and require face coverings in public spaces – but added that he didn’t think lifting all of the mitigation measures is “reasonable.”
Louisiana is considered “stable” by White House standards in its fight against COVID-19, Edwards said.
“I wish we were still declining, but at least we’re not surging,” he said.
The amount of new cases and the rate of positive tests is the lowest per capita in the South, he said, though recent days have seen an uptick in hospitalizations. State officials reported 775 new cases and nine new deaths on Thursday.