On Friday, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order postponing the state’s Democratic primary by two months due to growing fears related to the spread of the coronavirus.
The executive order reads in part:
In an effort to reduce and limit the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana, and to preserve the health and safety of all members of the public, all gatherings of 250 people or more between Friday, March 13th, 2020 and Monday, April 13th, 2020 shall be postponed or canceled. This applies only to gatherings in a single space at the same time where individuals will be in close proximity to one another. It does not apply to normal operations at locations like airports, medical facilities, shopping centers or malls, office buildings, factories or manufacturing facilities, or grocery or department stores. This provision may be extended beyond Monday, April 13th, 2020 by further order.
Louisiana was scheduled to hold its Democratic primary on April 4. CNBC reports that “the state will push its presidential nominating contests back to June 20 from the planned date of April 4, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday.”
Louisiana is the first state to move the date of its primary in response to the coronavirus, reports the Associated Press.
During a press conference, Edwards offered updates on the state’s number of cases, and prescribed best practices for the general public, as well as the elderly.
The governor noted that the executive order does indeed pertain to churches with more than 250 parishioners.
“This prohibition does apply to churches and houses of worship with congregations that exceed 250 in a single service,” Edwards stated. “However, churches and places of worship can engage in multiple services and bring the number of people in them below 250.”
The governor explained why the decision was made, saying:
It is important, and this is probably the one time a week where we know that the most number of elderly people and people with chronic health conditions are sitting in pews next to others for at least an hour. And so while it’s a very heavy decision, it was one that was deliberate to include churches…
Edwards said that “this is in keeping with guidance from the CDC on community spread … to limit the spread of COVID-19” in order to flatten the curve of cases so as not to overwhelm the medical system.
In a press release pertaining to the election, Edwards said:
The number of presumptive positive cases in our state is constantly increasing, and we want to make certain that we have maximum participation by all voters regardless of their age and health conditions. … The majority of our poll workers are older Louisianans who are among the most vulnerable to this virus along with those who have chronic health conditions. It’s necessary that we take every precaution to protect the health and safety of our people, and this is a serious situation that demands serious action. This was also a recommendation made by an in agreement with Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we will respond appropriately to protect our citizens.
During the earlier press conference, Edwards urged residents of Louisiana to be “responsible citizens and good neighbors” in these difficult times.
According to NBC News, which cites its own reports, as well as data from the “World Health Organization, state government leaders, and health officials,” as of publication, the coronavirus has infected more than 135,000 people worldwide, leading to over 5,300 deaths.
China has the bulk of the cases at more than 80,000. Italy has the second highest number of cases at approximately 17,660. The United States, according to NBC News, has 2,150 confirmed cases with 49 deaths.
On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency to help combat the virus.