Baton Rouge businesses taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach ahead of Broome news conference

As state and local government officials increasingly call for Louisianans to stay home amid a COVID-19 surge, Baton Rouge businesses are bracing for tightened restrictions and, in some cases, a return to fully remote work.

While Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday extended his modified phase two order, keeping current virus mitigation measures in place through Feb. 10, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome will hold a news conference today to discuss “next steps” for East Baton Rouge Parish as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise parishwide.

Local restaurant owners have heard rumblings that Baton Rouge could return to phase one restrictions, which would mean 25% capacity limits at their establishments and, historically, sharp declines in sales.

“We’re all taking a wait-and-see approach,” says Zippy’s owner Neal Hendrick.

Meanwhile, bar owners have been worried for months about another effective shutdown of their businesses. They were dealt another blow Wednesday, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit denied an appeal by 21 bar owners seeking to overturn Edwards’ mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus in Louisiana.

Moreover, white-collar businesses, some of which have asked workers to return to the office, are now readjusting their game plans since Edwards “strongly recommended” all businesses move to remote work for their employees, whenever possible, to help reduce virus spread.

The Louisiana Department of Health on Wednesday reported 1,730 new confirmed cases statewide, as well as another 1,172 new probable cases. Over the past 10 months, Louisiana has reported 8,022 COVID-related deaths.

In a Facebook post this morning, the governor’s official account urged Louisianans to “buckle down” as the state fights against the virus.

“There is more COVID in Louisiana now than at any other point in the pandemic,” the post reads. “Wear your mask, wash your hands and stay home when you’re sick. We all need to work together to fight this surge.”

Broome’s news conference will take place at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of the River Center Branch Library. Follow Daily Report PM for updates.