News for Wednesday June 24th, 2020
Compiled by Dave Graichen
The state continues its troubling trend in new COVID cases, yesterday posting the highest single-day increase in new cases since April 7th with 1,356 new positive tests. The increased numbers suggest community spread is accelerating due to another day of increased hospitalizations of COVID patients, and the over seven percent positive rate for tests conducted. Ventilator use also increased by 14.
Young people ages 18 to 29 lead the state in positive COVID-19 cases for a total of just under nine thousand. That’s approximately 19-hundred more than those 60 and older. Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Alex Billoux says the increase among 18 to 29-year-olds is concerning because of the impact they can have on their families.
At The Alexandria City Council meeting last night, members of the council voted unanimously to remove the confederate monument in front of the Rapides Parish Courthouse as soon as possible. City Attorney David Williams told the council even though there’s no documentation it’s believed the city is the rightful owner of the statue. But, before it can be removed, the city is requesting declaratory judgment from a judge so they can move forward and remove the statue from the Courthouse grounds.
State Fire Marshal deputies will perform random courtesy visits to businesses in an effort to help owners better comply with COVID spread mitigation restrictions. State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says they will visit various businesses with the goal of increasing compliance. Browning says they’re not looking to bust owners for breaking COVID regulations, they’re hoping to help them correct any mistakes. Browning says most businesses are doing their best to be compliant.
The Senate Finance Committee will take up the 34 billion dollar budget for the next fiscal year this afternoon. Lapolitics.com Publisher Jeremy Alford expects it to be approved, but notes crafting the budget is tricky because total revenue could change if a series of COVID relief tax breaks are passed. Several of the larger tax break bills headed to the Senate floor have been redirected back to Senate Finance for further review. Federal relief dollars plugged most of the, at one point, billion-dollar shortfall, but some cuts in healthcare and higher ed are still planned. Alford says early year promises for more early childhood education funding and teacher pay raises had to be abandoned as well. The state constitution requires the budget to be balanced.
Governor Edwards expects campuses of K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities to reopen in August. Edwards says the latest COVID-19 metrics concerning young people is concerning as to how that will impact heading back to school. Edwards says the school experience will likely look much different. Edwards says formulating the model for what the school will look like on the first day of class will largely be dependent upon what the circumstances are at that time. Thursday night at 6 o’clock, Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley will tell the Senate Education Committee his plan for reopening K-12 schools.
The Louisiana House has overwhelmingly voted to give K-12 schools and colleges sweeping protections against civil lawsuits from students and teachers who contract an infectious disease, including COVID-19. The measure is sponsored by Republican Rep. Buddy Mincey, a former Livingston Parish School Board member. The protections would be given to public and private K-12 schools; charter schools; and public and private colleges. Mincey says the limitation from liability is critical to allow schools to offer in-person classes this fall. Opponents say the protections could put students and teachers at greater risk of exposure.
Senator Bill Cassidy says Congress is working on another round of federal economic relief but feels the 600 dollar a week federal unemployment benefit must be changed. Cassidy says the unemployed must not be allowed to collect more in unemployment benefits than they made at their last job. Cassidy says one of his constituents says the unemployment benefits are making it difficult to staff their business as the economy begins to reopen.
The Senate voted 36-0 Tuesday to give final passage to a bill to levy an 8 percent state tax on the net revenue from fantasy sports contests. The aim is to dedicate that tax money to early childhood education. A 2018 law allowed voters in each parish to decide whether or not they wanted to be able to bet on fantasy sports. Forty-seven of the 64 parishes approved it. When fantasy sports betting was legalized, legislators said that it could not take effect unless it was taxed. The enactment of this tax is the last step in allowing citizens to bet on fantasy sports.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reports a third straight month of over-the-year increases in fishing license sales. Over 51,000 fishing licenses were sold in May 2020 compared to over 38,000 in May 2019.
A Shreveport man faces charges of animal cruelty after several hundred heads of cattle were discovered suffering from starvation and neglect. The Caddo Parish Sherriff’s office says 49-year old Tremecius Dixon was arrested Tuesday after an investigation on his property discovered the carcasses of at least 10 cattle, the remaining 250 were malnourished and lacked adequate water supply. Bond is set at 25-thousand dollars.
The Saints announced Tuesday that two members from their Super Bowl team will be inducted in the team’s hall of fame later this year. Jahri Evans and Roman Harper were both drafted in 2006 and played big roles in helping the Black and Gold win the Super Bowl a few years later. The two combined to play in eight pro bowls. Also, longtime Saints Spanish radio broadcaster Marco Garcia will receive the Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” award for his contributions to the organization.
The Athletic is reporting the NFL will not dictate attendance capacity limits for this season, instead the league has told teams that they should follow their local health COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing rules. A stadium reopening task force is expected to offer recommendations either next week or early July. If the entire season and postseason is played without fans, it will reportedly cost the NFL three billion dollars.
Nicholls State has named former Colonel football player and coach Jonathan Terrell as its new athletics director. Terrell is the first Black A-D in school history. He played quarterback and wide receiver for the Colonels in the mid-1990s and returned to Nicholls to serve as quarterbacks coach in 2004. Terrell has been a sales professional in private business and he’s also been president of the First Down Club.