LABI criticizes the governor’s decision to extend the stay-at-home order

Updated: Apr. 28, 2020 at 7:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A powerful business lobby is criticizing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend Louisiana’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, called the governor’s extension of the order through May 15 a disappointment.

"Obviously, over the last month the entire state has shut down to help fight the virus and everyone is committed to that cause, but during that month we've seen essential service industries stay open, places like grocery stores, hardware stores, construction sites and those companies have put in place commonsense measures to protect their employees, protect their customers,” said Waguespack.

He said other businesses that have not been allowed to reopen should be given the chance to do so.

"So, we think there's some good lessons learned from that month and we think other small businesses like some people in the restaurant industry, retail industry, hospitality industry deserve the ability to show that they also can put in place measures to protect the public and serve the public at the same time,” Waguespack stated.

Waguespack said his confidence is bolstered by what has already occurred.

"We've seen over the last month, go to a grocery store or a hardware store, you're seeing in place right now, there are sneeze-guards up, there is spacing going on by putting people in line six feet apart from each other,” said Waguespack. “The free enterprise and the business community put in place smart ideas to protect the public. We think other businesses are ready to do the same."

Edwards says some parts of the state have not shown enough progress in fighting the deadly virus. Also, Edwards said Louisiana has not met the White House’s criteria for the first phase of reopening by states.

A day after announcing the extension order, Edwards again defended his decision.

"We felt the right thing to do was to continue the stay-at-home order for two more weeks, make sure we didn't have a hot spot pop up until we knew we had the ability to test it and so forth, and these two weeks just made sense,” said Edwards.

Waguespack said timing is everything in terms of the future of many small businesses.

"We have a service-based economy in Louisiana and especially in New Orleans, we know that, that economy is really at a tipping point right now, we're very worried about the success of some of these small business members,” Waguespack said.

Under the governor’s extended order, stores inside malls can reopen for curbside delivery, restaurants can open their outside areas for customers to eat without tableside service and all employees of businesses who have contact with the public must wear a mask.

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