The past month and a half has been one of the more crazy times in the history of our world.
On a Tuesday in mid-March, the country was normal and, quite frankly, prosperous with one of the best economies in our history.
By Wednesday, there were tremors of a global pandemic hitting home.
And by Friday, life as we knew it was closed.
That was on March 13.
And those decisions were warranted. The past 40 days have been some of the darkest and saddest in the history of our country, and our area has not been immune.
To date, we have lost 1,670 people in our great state and 39 people in our parish. We’ve lost lawmakers, community dignitaries, friends, neighbors and far too many gone too soon.
Hundreds others have been sick and have had their lives impacted greatly — even if a full recovery was made.
And thousands more have had to deal with fear, anxiety and extreme emotional and financial concern.
But like all great storms, they come and they pass.
And there’s a period of time after the storm where we have to make decisions about how to build back to life as normal.
Now is that time.
Now is the time for Louisiana to re-open its economy — assuming, of course, that the re-open is done responsibly, sensibly and in a way that protects the people in our state.
Louisiana’s economy is an engine that fuels (literally) the rest of the country. Our energy sector was deemed essential in the early days of the pandemic and work in that sector is ongoing. But it’s time for the rest of the economic engine to move so that we can use that energy.
There are risks involved with that decision. But there are risks involved in any decision. A re-open may cause new daily COVID-19 cases to slightly rise. But if we protect the most at-risk patients (the elderly with pre-diagnosed conditions), we should be able to have our cake and eat it, too, and have a rebounded economy that also has COVID-19 under control.
Frankly, we have no choice.
COVID-19 attacks patients who are already at extreme medical risk. In Louisiana, 1,410 of our 1,670 deaths are ages 60 and above and 96-97 percent have pre-diagnosed medical issues, per the last state numbers we’ve received.
No one is saying that we have to put our elderly or our at-risk population in danger. But what we are saying is that if our economy crashes, those same elderly people will continue to be at risk, AND now, the workforce (our residents aged 18-59) will become jeopardized, as well.
Every percent point that unemployment goes up, we see a rise in mental health issues, suicides, drug abuse and incarceration. We see healthy community members — our next leaders — lost because there is not a sufficient work force to support their talents.
We cannot let the “cure” be worse than the “sickness.”
In the coming days and weeks, we must responsibly re-open in phases, protecting the at-risk population as best we can.
We need our workers to work and our employers to be responsible, offering workers adequate space and time away, if sick.
We need our at-risk patients to be cooperative, patient and to stay home for a little longer while we accomplish these goals. Limit exposure to only necessary trips to the store or doctor. When in public, wear a mask. Limit your exposure as best you can and stay as far away from others as you can. When home, wash your hands.
If we do those things, the medical experts say we will stem this tide and get back to life in our “new normal”.
We’re making great progress.
The peak of this pandemic in Louisiana was the first week of April.
In that time, our hospital system was looking like it would be overflowed and we were adding new cases by the thousands.
But since that time, we have bought ourselves some time and we have caught up.
The idea for shelter in place and “flattening the curve” was never to drop COVID-19 cases to 0. It was to lessen the pressure on hospitals and to spread the demand out over time.
We’ve given ourselves some leeway, so now it’s time to enter Phase I and open back up.
Getting to this point has happened because of residents doing what they were asked to do and giving full cooperation.
If we follow the plan, act responsibly and take care of ourselves, we will be able to not only re-open, but prosper.
If we trust our awesome parish and state leaders’ guidance (which will come in the coming days), we will succeed.
The numbers say it’s time.
The economy needs it, our people need it.
And frankly, we can’t survive much longer without it — because a prolonged closure would be far worse than this virus.