While U.S. COVID numbers rise, local politicians spar over virus restrictions
BATON ROUGE - As the battle against novel coronavirus wages on, it's proving to be a multi-faceted fight.
Over 180,000 Louisiana residents are embroiled in a battle against the illness itself, meanwhile, others are physically healthy but financially strapped as they fight COVID-related financial woes.
And still another group of Louisianans are waging a series of political wars against COVID-related legislation.
Last week, republican lawmakers, fueled by a desire to see the state make greater strides in its path to financial recovery, filed a petition to officially terminate Governor John Bel Edwards' continued emergency proclamations related to novel coronavirus.
These officials explained that their continued requests to be included in the governor's decision-making process in relation to COVID orders and proclamations seemed to fall on deaf ears.
So, they took action.
After garnering support from Attorney General Jeff Landry, the lawmakers took steps to officially terminate the Governor Edwards’ continued emergency proclamations and "clear up any conflict with the interpretation of the Legislature’s involvement in the emergency order process and ensures the next time this type of situation occurs."
Governor Edwards, cautious yet swift in his counter to the petition, fought back by filing a lawsuit against the full Legislature, the House and GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder on Monday.
The Governor publicly defended his coronavirus restrictions in a Monday afternoon news conference and maintained that the law used by GOP lawmakers to revoke his emergency orders is unconstitutional.
"That petition," Governor Edwards said, "is reckless and dangerous and irresponsible and I'll also say it is unconstitutional."
He then reiterated that his Phase 3 restrictions remain “in full force and effect.”
“We have received no different directive from the governor’s office, so our operations remain the same,” said agency spokeswoman Ashley Rodrigue.
In contrast, Attorney General Landry continues to insist that the coronavirus restrictions no longer exist, whether Edwards follows the law’s provisions to terminate his emergency order or not.
“The termination process is effective immediately, unless provided otherwise in the petition ... The termination of emergency powers does not require any additional action other than the signed petition,” Landry said in his statement.
Under the Governor's current restrictions, restaurants, churches, gyms and most other businesses can operate at 75% of their capacity. Sports events such as high school and college football games have crowd limits of 25%. That said, high school football stadiums can have their crowds boosted to 50% capacity in parishes where 5% or fewer of their coronavirus tests have come back positive in the last two weeks.
Bars are still under strict limits, currently only allowed to offer takeout and delivery sales, unless they operate in a parish that has recently seen low test positivity rates — and only if local officials agree. When they are allowed to open for in-person, onsite drinking, bars are restricted to 25% of their occupancy limits and tableside service.
As political fights and economic battles related to coronavirus wage on, the most devastating impact of COVID continues to make its mark on Louisiana. So far, the deadly virus has claimed the lives of 5,648 Louisianans.
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