Louisiana reported 844 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday as Gov. John Bel Edwards announced he will extend Phase 2 restrictions for two more weeks in the face of a fierce hurricane and children returning to school.

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Edwards acknowledged the state has seen improvement in the trajectory of the virus, but said relaxing restrictions like bar closures and mask mandates during Hurricane Laura and schools reopening would be reckless. 

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The coronavirus has forced many businesses to cut back their operations.

“The prudent thing is go two more weeks and do an analysis of where we are,” he said.

Louisiana has now recorded 144,960 cases since its first case was confirmed in March.

MORE: Map: Where coronavirus has spread in Louisiana by parish

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 16 fewer hospitalizations Wednesday for a total of 914, while seven more patients needed ventilators for a total of 148.

Thirty-two more deaths were recorded for a total of 4,688.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.

This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: Louisiana’s Wednesday COVID report: 844 new cases; 32 more deaths

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