LISTEN: Louisiana poised for big economic hit as COVID surge continues

Waitress disinfecting table
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The Delta variant of the coronavirus has taken a major bite out of the hopes and dreams for a return to normalcy in Louisiana.

Guy Williams, president of Gulf Coast Bank and Trust, told Newell Normand on WWL Radio that visions of a robust autumn for businesses have gone bust with a number of big events having already been called off.

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“We were set up for a fabulous fall,” Williams said. “Jazz Fest. Rolling Stones. French Quarter Festival. Saints football coming back. Everything was looking good. Our Airbnb customers were essentially 100% for French Quarter Fest weekend, Jazz Fest weekend, so really excited to start having some volume and some revenue. Same thing with the restaurants and the venues, and that’s just gone away.”

Williams said the Pelican State’s economy is poised to take one of the bigger hits in the region, especially restaurants. Area eateries are staring down location-based problems - namely a staffing shortage on the northshore and vaccine mandates on the southshore that are prompting some patrons to cancel reservations.

“The challenge is not the same everywhere else,” he said. “People are still booking in other states. We’re unfortunately taking a bit of a worse hit than some of our neighboring states.”

Of course, that’s not surprising when the COVID-19 numbers are examined. As of August 17, Louisiana ranks second in the nation in COVID cases per capita and hospitalizations per capita behind only Florida in both instances and first in deaths per capita, according to the New York Times COVID tracker.

Citing his own sources at Ochsner, Williams said he believes about seven more weeks remain before the current surge starts to subside.

“We know what we need to do,” Williams said. “If you haven’t gotten the vaccine, go ahead. And hopefully this seven weeks ends it, and we can move forward.”