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COLUMN: With slight expansion of absentee balloting, Louisiana will test pandemic voting on low turnout primaries

Louisiana’s emergency election plan only applies to the July and August elections, though it could serve, if needed, as a foundation for an emergency plan for the November presidential election.

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LGH offering antibody testing for its employees

Lafayette General Health began offering voluntary coronavirus antibody testing to its employees this week. It will offer the lab-based serology test to all of its 4,500-plus employees and nearly 1,200 providers across its health system.

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Take a (laundry) load off a Lafayette healthcare worker

Lafayette General Foundation is raising money to pay for laundry for hospital employees, giving a boost to a local startup

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Council Preview: Taxing districts go to executive session, applying for grants, more board splits

The gist: City Council members and the administration will go into executive session Tuesday to discuss the administration’s “legal strategy” for backing away from a lawsuit filed to stop several special taxing districts. The mayor-president and some council members are at odds over the issue. Less controversial decisions will be made on applying for millions in grants and continuing the process of splitting control of boards between the city and parish councils.

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Virtual Festival gets international ovation

With the pressure ratcheted up, the Festival staff and community responded with admirable speed. Their work is garnering some national attention and applause.

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Lafayette ‘won’t openly defy’ the governor as other parishes break with stay-home order

The gist: Conservative politicians and business groups are getting louder in their criticism of the governor’s stay-home order, as a partisan divide on social distancing is opening. At least three parishes will buck the governor altogether, challenging Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reach and resolve. Working to find flexibility where he can, Lafayette’s Republican mayor-president isn’t going that far. 

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“I’m not going to openly defy a lawful order,” Josh Guillory said Thursday of the order, set to expire May 15. Guillory has led Lafayette to pry open a path to resuming commerce without flouting the governor altogether, and he’s been consistently warm to the governor’s efforts, often remarking that he sees where Edwards is coming from. Rhetorically, the Republican mayor is in step with his party, however, saying he trusts “the market” to incentivize safe decisions as the economy reopens. 

Both West and East Feliciana and LaSalle parishes will openly defy the stay-home order. The small mostly rural parishes will reopen restaurant dining rooms, nail salons and barber shops, among other changes, but with some precautions still in place. The defiance presses on a weakness in the executive order — it needs local law enforcement to back it up.

“I told him if he felt like he had to shut us down then he should come on up here and enforce it,” West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard, a Republican and former legislator who has aligned with Edwards in the past, told USA Today Network.

Some conservatives and business groups are pushing Edwards to loosen his grip from Baton Rouge. Republican legislators may vote to overturn the governor’s emergency declaration, upending the stay-home order altogether. That effort is joined by calls from industry leaders for a “free enterprise” approach to standing down social distancing. LABI chief Stephen Waguespack held Lafayette’s Safe Shop policy as a blueprint for moving forward without crushing business, apparently overlooking that the Lafayette policy conforms to the governor’s current restrictions.  

Guillory’s approach has won favorable attention. He will present the Safe Shop policy to fellow mayors in a call with the Louisiana Municipal Association, and some parishes have already copied the policy. Safe Shop makes use of an ambiguity in the governor’s order to allow nonessential businesses to open up with at most 25% occupancy, which in many cases would allow them to exceed the 10-person limit the governor re-emphasized in announcing his extension. That interpretation has been OK’d by the governor, even as it’s allowed for places with deadlier outbreaks, like in St. Landry Parish, to start reopening. Acadiana was among four regions the governor singled out for their lack of social distancing and continued struggle with the pandemic. 

“I don’t believe the best approach to anything is painting with a broad brush,” Guillory said Thursday, referencing a letter he and fellow Lafayette Parish mayors wrote Edwards asking for local flexibility. The mayor-president has made clear he’d prefer more autonomy but is willing to concede to the Democratic governor’s authority, even as conservative activists plan another rally in Baton Rouge on May 2 and local pressure is mounting from voters that make up no small part of his base. 

The governor formally extended his stay-home order Thursday. Should good trends hold, the governor said this week, he’ll begin a phased reopening of the economy. The first step would codify the 25% occupancy limit with continued safety precautions first implemented in Lafayette. 

You can get a sofa but not a routine mammogram As elective procedures slowly return, Dr. Henry Kaufman says medicine will never be ‘business as usual’

It’s an understatement to say it’s been a whirlwind since Dr. Henry Kaufman accepted the position of interim chief medical officer at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in early April.

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Does being the ‘happiest city’ give Lafayette the edge on coronavirus?

According to the prior findings of social scientists, Lafayette — once famously declared the “happiest city in America” — may be uniquely positioned to come out of all this with its social and emotional landscape intact.

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Fighting higher levels of infection, Lafayette’s black community leaders work to bridge deadly gaps

Racial disparities among coronavirus cases statewide has spurred a growing number of community leaders and organizations to ramp up and combat the crisis.

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Link: Lafayette restaurants brace for extended coronavirus closure, then 25% occupancy limit

The governor plans to begin phase one of a gradual reopening of the state’s economy on May 16, which will allow restaurants to offer dine-in services at a 25% occupancy rate. Restaurant owners had mixed feelings on Monday’s news.

Source: Lafayette restaurants brace for extended coronavirus closure, then 25% occupancy limit | Coronavirus | theadvocate.com

Updated WARN includes layoffs at Halliburton, Omega, Turner Industries, Ensco

The latest WARN update from the state includes 36 layoffs at Halliburton in Broussard, 180 losses at ASRC Omega’s Port of Iberia operations, 350 cuts at Turner Industries in Port Allen and an undisclosed workforce reduction for ENSCO’s Gulf of Mexico operations.

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Reader Survey: How safe do you feel? Not that safe

The gist: The talk has clearly shifted to reopening. It was always a question of when, not if, but when is getting closer. We asked our readers how safe they felt, and 270 weighed in.

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Would you go to a restaurant? Get a haircut? Most of you said no. We picked that benchmark for a couple of reasons, most notably because this is a culture that loves to eat out, and people have been boude-ing hard about not getting haircuts. 

“I’d feel safer if everyone took this seriously in the meantime, but not holding my breath.” That’s how one respondent put it. Overall, folks still seem pretty worried.The sentiment matches up with some other survey results. (1 = Not worried; 5 = Very worried)

Lafayette may reopen, but that doesn’t mean folks are getting out there. Again, most respondents indicated they weren’t quite ready to start acting normal as things start to open up. (1 = Not at all; 5 = Resume regular activity)

So what do we make of this? For a lot of people, feeling safe will come from more testing and a vaccine. Testing still lags way behind demand locally and nationally, and a vaccine won’t be ready until 2021, even if researchers throw caution to the wind. To the extent this sample is at all representative, efforts to reopen, evenly cautiously, are moving ahead of what many people are comfortable with. That raises questions about how people will actually behave as commerce comes online again. Will the community follow? 

UL economist Gary Wagner says the survey jibes with national polls and other surveys he’s seen. “I also think the results are a good sign that people recognize the added risks and plan to voluntarily take extra precautions,” he tells me. Indeed, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found broad support for keeping restrictive stay home orders going, even among people most affected financially.