Updated 4:20 p.m.
In a press conference today, Gov. Edwards expanded the business closures to include fitness centers and gyms. Closures will continue until at least Apr. 13. Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open, and residents are encouraged to buy for the week, not the month or longer.
Edwards reiterated the need for all residents to practice social distancing as he confirmed the state now has 136 reported COVID-19 cases, including the first case in Ascension Parish, and three deaths. Louisiana now has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the country, Edwards said.
"The best we can hope for is a slow down in transmissions, not that we can stop all transmissions," Edwards said. "It is likely a matter of time before there is one in your community."
Edwards also announced he authorized the mobilization of 400 National Guard members, 150 of which have already been activated to assist at a designated isolation area in Bayou Segnette and various drive-thru testing locations.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state will take more aggressive measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The size of gatherings is now limited to fewer than 50 people. Other measures include the closing of casinos, bars and movie theaters and limiting restaurants to delivery, take out and drive-through orders only. All changes are effective across the state at midnight tonight.
Normal operations may resume on Apr. 13, but the situation will be re-evaluated seven days prior, according to an Office of the Governor press release.
“What we’re learning is that it can take two weeks for symptoms to appear. We believe we are still unearthing community spread that’s been around for the past several weeks, which means it is a statewide problem that requires statewide solutions,” Gov. Edwards said in a statement. “In addition to meeting with Sen. Bill Cassidy this morning who is supportive of our efforts, I was also on a call with President Trump and Vice President Pence that lasted more than an hour and they were very clear that we must significantly expand our mitigation efforts to slow the progress of COVID-19 before there is more community spread. Action must be taken now, even in areas where there are no confirmed cases yet.”
Edwards' decision comes hours after the Louisiana legislative leadership decided to temporarily suspend the legislative session.
As of March 16 at 1:15 p.m., there are 132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana.