Louisiana to ramp up contact tracing, hiring only La. workers

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) – May 8, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana is looking to more than triple the number of contact tracers across the state to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said all people hired would be Louisiana workers as the state increases from 70 contact tracers to 250. To apply, workers must have a high school diploma, must be comfortable having phone conversations, and must be able to enter data while remaining compassionate and protecting patient privacy. Applicants can send an email to contacttracing@la.gov. Edwards said the state is following the lead of Massachusetts and may need to increase to as many as 700 people to man the call centers.

Office of Public Health Asst. Secretary Dr. Alex Billioux explained that contact tracing consists of interviewing those who have gotten a positive test result and then contact the people they may have had contact with, including household members, intimate partners, caregivers and anyone who may have been within six feet for more than 15 minutes.

People who may have been exposed will then be contacted and interviewed without being told the identity of who may have exposed them. They will then be asked to quarantine, especially if they are showing symptoms. Billioux said protecting each patient’s privacy will be very important throughout the process.

For contact tracing to be successful, however, an increase in testing is critical, said Billioux. The state is shooting for a goal of testing 200,000 in the month of May and continuing to ramp up beyond that goal. The key, he said, would be to make sure the testing takes place where it is needed most – in areas with vulnerable populations and in rural areas that may have been under-tested.

The state is also investing in increasing the capabilities of the state-run lab, pumping over $3.5 million into equipment and facilities. Billioux said the state is also working with private labs to see and meet their needs, as well.

May 6, 2020, UPDATE: The state plans to ramp up testing and contact tracing.  

During his Wednesday press briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said 700 additional workers will be hired to staff call centers under the supervision of epidemiologists.  

The state will release new details on contact tracing efforts on Friday.  State officials will hold a May 8 press briefing at 2:30 p.m.

As of Wednesday, Louisiana has exceeded 30,300 cases with 2,094 confirmed cases, the Department of Health and Hospitals reported.  

The state’s stay-at-home order remains extended to May 15.  

Some good news, Edwards noted that a Lafayette district judge granted a family the adoption of two daughters via Zoom this week.  

On Wednesday, a proclamation was signed declaring May 7 as Nurse’s Day in Louisiana.

May 4, 2020, UPDATE: The state Fire Marshal’s Office and the Department of Health have launched an online “Open Safely” program to assist businesses with COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. 

The site, opensafely.la.gov, also allows customers to submit complaints if a business is reportedly not complying with distancing guidelines and/or lack of PPE.  

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning joined Gov. John Bel Edwards for Monday’s press briefing to explain the new program and how his agency will continue to conduct compliance checks as businesses, most recently restaurants, open with new requirements. 

Read the full press release from the governor’s office here.

As of Monday, Louisiana is seventh in the country in per-capita COVID-19 cases in the United States. 

“We were second in the nation about two weeks ago,” Edwards noted. 

Overall, he said the state’s latest data shows the spread of cases is slowing. Officials are crediting that to residents and businesses complying to the state’s stay-at-home order and CDC guidelines. 

“The people of Louisiana are responding,” Edwards said. “It appears that we are headed in the right direction.” 

 On Friday, the state will address new testing and contact tracing methods 

May 1, 2020, UPDATE: Gov. John Bel Edwards said that while the state reported a spike of new COVID-19 cases today (May 1), over half of those cases came from new testing labs going online and reporting new cases going back to March.

Louisiana reported 710 new cases today, which was significantly higher than has been seen over the past several days. However, around 380 of those cases came from the new labs. If you take those cases out of today’s total, Edwards said the numbers are much more reflective of what the state has seen in the past week.

La. Office of Public Health Asst. Secretary Alex Billioux explained that, especially among smaller testing labs, it’s harder to get reporting up to speed – especially if they don’t have electronic means to report to the state and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a regular basis.

Billioux said that Louisiana will continue to occasionally see such spikes as new labs come online, though he said it is not expected on anything like a daily basis. When those numbers are spiking because of new labs coming online, Billioux said that context will be explained during the daily briefings.

April 30, 2020, UPDATE: Tests kits for COVID-19 will be arriving in Louisiana next week. 

Following his meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday, Gov, John Bel Edwards said he and the president discussed plans for Phase 1 of opening up the state after May 15. 

Edwards officially signed the May 15 stay-at-home order extension on Thursday. You can read the proclamation here.  

Certain parts of Louisiana remain a concern due to a spike in cases. Those “hot spot” regions are in the state’s metropolitan areas such as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. 

The federal government has committed to assisting Louisiana with its plan to test 200,000 people in May. 

As of 12 p.m. on April 30, there have been 28,001 cases reported in Louisiana; 1,862 (which means 104 additional since Tuesday) deaths, according to the Department of Health and Hospitals.

On Friday, there will be a flyover of Baton Rouge and New Orleans hospitals to salute health care workers. There will also be one at 12 p.m. in St. Landry Parish.  

April 28, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana has fallen back to fifth in the nation in per-capita cases of COVID-19, which is behind Rhode Island.

The federal coronavirus task force will assist Louisiana in ramping up testing in May. The monthly goal is to reach 200,000 tests, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.

Right now, statewide testing is at about 150,000.  

Louisiana is still considered a “hot spot” state for the virus’ spread, which is why medical officials recommend anyone out in the public above the age of 2 wear a mask.

Masks should be worn indoors and outdoors, whenever in the presence of anyone not in their household, (an exception is those with breathing complications).

Edwards said he is considering whatever is necessary to address the fiscal impact of COVID-19. 

“I believe we are going to bounce back quicker than some people might think,” he said.

But the governor added that forcing openings too soon could be more devastating to the economy. The state could see a spike in cases, which would prompt a second shutdown.

“It would be like hitting the accelerator and then hitting the breaks,” Edwards said.

April 27, 2020, UPDATE: The governor has extended the state’s stay-at-home order from April 30 to May 15.

Louisiana is now sixth in the U.S. in terms of per-capita COVID-19 cases. 

  • On Friday, the state will be easing some restrictions allowing patrons to dine in outdoor areas of restaurants, but with no table service. To-go orders are only permitted. 
  • Malls will remain closed, but retail stores can offer curbside delivery. 
  • Essential businesses will remain open. Non-essential retail business may have no more than 10 people in a store at a time. 
  • Places of worship may remain open with a 10-person limit.
  •  Any employee who interacts with the public must wear a mask.  
  • Businesses such as bars, casinos, barbershops and salon remain closed. 

Edwards said the stay-at-home extension is because the state is not seeing a higher decrease in cases.  He said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence Monday morning, who agreed with the order’s May 15 extension.

State officials are trying to avoid creating new “hot spots” as Louisiana works to ramp up testing, Edwards said.

As of noon Monday, there have been 27,068 (928 more since Friday) cases reported statewide. There have been 1,697 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.

“We are moving in the right direction,” he said.  He encouraged Louisianans to take these next two weeks to adjust to “a new normal.” 

Watch the full April 27 press briefing below:

April 24, 2020, UPDATE: The state is now releasing data on COVID-19 recoveries. 

As of Wednesday, April 22, 2020, there are 14,927 presumed recovered cases, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals. 

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy joined Gov. John Bel Edwards during Friday’s press briefing to talk about federal aid, the state’s health care system and economy. 

When asked whether he believed the entire state should open up immediately, which has been goaded by U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins, Cassidy said he is a “doctor before a senator.” 

“This has to be driven by data,” he said. 

Cassidy sits on the President Trump’s task force for reopening the economy.

Louisiana is seeing signs of slower spread of COVID-19, but the governor’s stay-at-home order may be extended beyond April 30 in an effort to avoid a spike in new cases.

Edwards is expected to make an announcement early next week on how to proceed with opening portions of the state.

April 23, 2020, UPDATE: Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will make announcements on how the state will proceed with opening its economy next week. 

The governor said he wants to meet the criteria set forth by the federal government before easing any COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, specifically the state’s current stay-at-home order.  

Order could be extended past its April 30 deadline.

The death toll related to coronavirus now exceeds more casualties from Hurricane Katrina, Edwards noted.

Enhanced testing continues to be the state’s focus, Edwards said. The goal is to be able to conduct 200,000 tests per month. 

Businesses currently in operation are urged to protect their employees and the public by providing masks. 

“If you want to open your business, you need to be protecting people from COVID-19,” Edwards said.  

The state’s trajectory has improved. Louisiana is now fifth instead of third in the U.S. in per capita cases. Social distancing continues to be credited to slowing the virus’ spread.  

“We are in a much, much better place because the people of Louisiana,” Edwards said. 

April 22, 2020, UPDATE: It appears Louisiana has reached a leveling-off period in confirmed COVID-19 cases.  

As of 12 p.m. Wednesday, there have been 25,258 cases reported; 1,405 deaths; and 1,747 COVID-19 patients in hospitalized.  

Louisiana is now No. 5 in per-capita cases in the nation. A week ago, the state was third in the U.S.  

“We are still fighting this,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during his daily press briefing. The state is still vulnerable to a spike in new cases, he said.

The newly created Louisiana Resilience Commission held its first meeting earlier that day, Edwards said. The 18-member commission was established to address Louisiana’s economy and public health amid the global pandemic.  

Edwards called on the state to “mask up”, meaning Louisianans should wear a mask in public places. He requested all media present during the daily briefings to also wear masks. 

In the coming days, he said he will be making announcements on how the state will move forward with its “new normal.”  

“We need to understand that this is going to be with us for a while,” the governor said.

Click here for a list of community testing sites.

Important COVID-19 information

April 21, 2020, UPDATE: The state is easing its guidelines on some “time-sensitive” medical procedures.   

Medical facilities have one week to prepare, clean and begin scheduling certain non-elective surgeries including dental. 

“This is not the lifting of everything,” Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips said during the daily afternoon press briefing.  

As of 12 p.m. Tuesday, there 24,523 cases reported; 1,328 deaths reported; 1,794 COVID-19 patients hospitalized (332 on ventilators). 

There are 10 days left of the federal and state’s stay-at-home orders, which may be extended depending on the virus’ spread. 

Louisiana’s efforts to flatten its number of cases is attributed to residents and businesses adhering to social distancing measures. 

“This success is because of you,” Phillips said.

April 20, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana’s doctors are being given the power to decide which surgical procedures can be performed going forward, starting in one week, Monday, April 27.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said today in his daily press briefing that non-emergency procedures will restart with next week’s proclamation. Medical facilities will have to meet several criteria before procedures can begin, such as presenting a plan stating how social distancing will be kept, keeping a 5-day supply of personal protection equipment. and stating how facilities will be cleaned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The procedures that will be allowed will be decided by doctors based on three criteria: 1. Is it an emergency condition? 2. Will it prevent further harm down the road? and 3. Is it a time-sensitive condition?

Dr. Jimmy Guidry of the Office of Public Health explained, as an example, that a diagnostic procedure such as checking a possibly cancerous lump would be permitted. Thyroid and heart procedures were also examples of things that would be allowed. Dental procedures that meet the same criteria would also be allowed.

More controversially, abortions would still be allowed as long as the mother’s health is in doubt. Such procedures could be considered time-sensitive.

April 17, 2020, UPDATE: Gov. John Bel Edwards said the Department of Health and Hospitals is working on new plans to increase non-emergency surgical capacity in the state’s clinics and hospitals. This was after also announcing Courtney Phillips as the department’s new secretary.

Edwards said DHH officials were not available for his press conference because they were working on plans that will reopen non-emergency capabilities to the state. He noted that situations that aren’t emergencies now can and will develop into emergencies as time goes on, making these plans crucial. In addition to being important to the state’s healthcare system, he said reopening hospitals and clinics is also key for the state’s economic outlook.

While he did not give any specifics on plans, he said the reopening will happen “sooner rather than later,” and will likely happen before May 1.

Edwards broadcasted his press conference from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, where workers are crafting personal protection equipment – particularly gowns. While the national supply of gloves and masks is increasing, the supply of gowns remains low.

April 16, 2020, UPDATE: Some better news came Thursday during a statewide press briefing on COVID-19. 

Hospitalizations and ventilator usage are trending down, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.  

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the creation of the Resilient Louisiana Commission to address the pandemic’s impact on Louisiana’s economy. 

The slower number of reported COVID-19 cases does not mean the state’s stay-at-home order will be eased, the governor, who was joined Thursday by U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise, said. 

“Now is not the time to let up,” Edwards said. 

April 15, 2020, UPDATE- Thursday brought a “mixed bag” of additional confirmed coronavirus-related deaths, but fewer hospitalizations and cases relying on ventilators, Gov. John Bel Edwards said. 

During his daily briefing, Edwards said the state is showing signs of “flattening the curve”, but he continued to urge distancing and abiding the state’s stay-at-home order. 

More than 13,000 members of the National Guard are delivering PPE supplies to temporary medical sites and health care facilities throughout the state.  

Related: Louisiana K-12 public schools are closed for the remainder of the year, Governor says

April 14, 2020, UPDATE:  As of noon, Tuesday, there are 21,518 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 1,013 deaths; 1,977 Covid-19 patients hospitalized (436 on ventilators). 

 All 64 parishes have reported cases. 

During his daily press briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said today’s death count is the largest the state has reported in a single day since the COVID-19 outbreak started. The two parishes most impacted are Orleans and Jefferson. 

Some positive news- there is a drop in the number of hospitalizations and ventilator patients. 

Louisiana saw largest number of tests in a 24-hour period with more than 10,000 tests. The state remains No. 1 in per-capita for testing, Edwards said.  

Social distancing and complying to the state’s stay-at-home order is still being urged, as the state works to flatten the number of virus cases. 

“The decisions that we make today is either going to a positive of a negative impact,” the governor said. “It’s not going to be over tomorrow. It’s not going to be over next week.” 

A major announcement Tuesday came from Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC), James Le Blanc who said the special review panel is being created for temporarily furloughs for certain prison inmates.  

April 13, 2020, UPDATE: The state is now dealing with multiple disasters after tornadoes ripped a path through several North Louisiana parishes on Easter Sunday.

On the COVID-19 front, however, Edwards said cell phone data suggests that Louisiana residents did a great deal of violating the stay-at-home order over the Easter weekend.

“I’m asking everyone to do better,” said Edwards.

Edwards also updated numbers reported on Friday on the racial disparity seen in the number of coronavirus deaths over the past several months. Around 60% of deaths from COVID-19 in Louisiana were African-Americans, around 30% were white, and over 8% were unknown. Edwards said that while the numbers were somewhat different from Friday’s numbers, they still represented a statistical difference with Louisiana’s actual population. African Americans only make up about 30% of Louisiana’s population.

With COVID-19 affecting people with other chronic conditions more seriously than those without, Edwards noted those chronic conditions — such as heart disease, kidney disorders, hypertension, diabetes and others — affect the African-American community heavily.

April 10, 2020, UPDATE: The state’s stay-at-home order appears to be working, according to the latest models.

As of noon, Friday, there were 19,253 cases reported; 755 deaths, 2,054 hospitalized cases with 479 on ventilators, the DHH reported.

During his April 10 briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to pay attention to this weekend’s severe weather forecast for central and north Louisiana.

There will be strong winds, rain, hail, and severe thunderstorms on Sunday.

As of Friday, 7.5 million PPE items have been delivered to the state. The state has established a task for to address cases and racial disparity’s affect of the virus’ spread.

State officials have not yet made an announcement on school closures.

​Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is recovering, offered a statewide prayer for the Easter holiday. ​

April 9, 2020, UPDATE: The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has come out in support of immediately closing public school facilities statewide. Edwards said he will be meeting with the interim state superintendent on the matter this afternoon.

During Thursday briefing, Edwards clarified that $600 unemployment checks are retroactive for 1099, but only to the week that ended April 4.

The state is seeing signs of improvement in terms of lowering its number of COVID-19 cases, which is being attributed to the stay-at-home at home order.

At 8 p.m. tonight, Louisiana will join the nation in lighting landmarks blue in honor of health care employees and other essential workers on the front lights fighting the virus.

The Superdome, state capitol, governor’s mansion and universities among those locations that will “Light it Up Blue.” 

You can watch the full April 9, 2020, press conference below:

APRIL 8, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana saw 70 new coronavirus-related deaths overnight, according to state Department of Health and Hospitals.  

During his Wednesday briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed newly released data indicating 70 percent of the state’s COVID-19 patients are African American.

“We recognize that these are disturbing statistics,” Edwards said.  

Edwards was joined by physician Dr. Corey Hebert who addressed COVID-19’s impact to black communities. 

Inequitable access to quality health care and low income are factors of disparity that play into the virus’ reach, Hebert said. 

Edwards said funding for the federal $600 weekly supplement to the state’s unemployment benefit has arrived and will begin being distributed Monday.

As of Wednesday, the state has received $27 million to assist its health care system, Edwards said.

Greater focus is being put the Region 7 (the Shreveport area) and Region 3, which include the state’s river parishes and St. Mary Parish, as the number of cases in those regions rise.

April 7, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana may be seeing results from its mitigation efforts to flatten the number of COVID-19 cases, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

During his daily briefing Tuesday, Edwards said despite fewer confirmed statewide cases, 70 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours

Edwards reiterated the urgency for social distancing compliance and there are no plans to ease up on the state’s stay-at-home order just yet.

“That is exactly the wrong answer at this time,” the governor said. 

Louisiana is now the No. 1 the country in per capita testing. There are plans to expand testing in rural areas particularly in Region 3, which include St. Mary Parish and the state’s river parishes.  

The state received 400,000 masks from Apple Monday night and Americorps has also committed to donating PPE supplies.

You can watch the full April 7, 2020, press briefing below:

The governor is taking daily questions from members of the public: Askjbe@la.gov.  

Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guarantee Program is now available. Learn more at opportunitylouisiana.com/covid19.  

APRIL 6, 2020, UPDATE: Beginning this week, the state Department of Health and Hospitals will be releasing weekly updates on the demographics of fatal COVID-19 cases and times of death.  

During his Monday press briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said nearly 70 percent of the deaths related COVID-19 in Louisiana are African American. Hypertension remains the most common underlying condition in patients. 

As of April 6, the number of statewide cases was just under 15,000 with 35 additional deaths overnight.  

In the next few days, state officials will be watching data to see if Louisiana is closer to “flattening the curve” in the number of coronavirus cases. Edwards said social distancing and the statewide stay-at-home order are credited for fewer cases confirmed.

He reminded residents that this doesn’t mean the order will be lifted any time soon. 

“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to have the best possible outcome,” he said.  “This is not the time to become lax and ease up.”  

Though not a state mandate, wearing face masks is encouraged when residents must go out in public, are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor said.  

As of Monday, Louisiana has received 753 ventilators including 200 from the national stockpile.  

APRIL 3, 2020, UPDATE: Louisiana saw a 13 percent increase in overnight cases Friday. The state’s stay-at-home order continues through April 30 in an urgent effort to diminish the spread of COVID-19. 

The following is a release sent from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office on Friday:

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s modeling data show the state on course to require 2,500 new hospitalizations a day in the New Orleans area by mid-May, if the public does not adhere to COVID-19 mitigation measures like Gov. Edwards’ Stay at Home order.

Governor Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health on Friday shared a product of the state’s COVID-19 modeling that takes into account the Governor’s aggressive mitigation measures.

“There are increasing efforts across the country to understand the impact of social distancing, school closures, stay at home orders and other mitigation measures as we strive to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “What we are seeing is that many Louisianans are taking this seriously. Unfortunately, there are still others who are not, and perhaps it is because we have not fully impressed upon all of our citizens the serious consequences of not staying at home.”

Projections are based on modeling that accounts for the rate of hospitalization and death, as well as the capacity of health care facilities and medical surge efforts in each region. Each scenario is based on the number of new people a COVID-19 positive patient infects. In the most favorable scenario, this number is lower, with fewer people being infected and fewer health care resources needed.

Louisiana releases data about hospitalized cases and hospital and ventilator use each day on its COVD-19 dashboard at ldh.la.gov/coronavirus

The product of the Department’s COVID-19 model shows differing scenarios based on how well the public participates in different mitigation efforts. This graph shows projected new hospitalizations per day under four different scenarios in Region 1 (the Greater New Orleans Area). As the Department builds out additional regional projections, it will share them with the public. 

“The consequences of not staying at home are real. You have heard me talk about flattening the curve before, and so might wonder why there are four curves here,” continued Governor Edwards. “These are four different scenarios based on actions we all take now.” 

The high red curve is Louisiana’s baseline, or what would happen without any measures taken. This is the state’s worst-case scenario – there is a rapid rise in new hospitalizations, adding intense strain to the state’s overwhelmed health care system. In this scenario, many people will die.

“We all have the power to determine the path we end up on.  We are not strangers to hurricane maps and projections in Louisiana. In some ways this graph is no different. Like projected paths of a hurricane these curves show different potential paths of coronavirus in Louisiana,” said Governor Edwards.  “Importantly, unlike a hurricane, we have the ability to redirect the path of this virus.”

These blue and purple curves show the impact of social distancing and staying at home. These are much flatter curves, meaning far fewer people enter the hospital on any one day.

“On the purple curve or scenario where everyone complies with the stay at home order, the Greater New Orleans region’s  health care system would have the time and the ability to take care of us as we get sick. It means far fewer of our neighbors, family members and friends will die,” said Dr. Alex Billioux, the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public Health. “Unfortunately this is likely not the case on the blue curve or scenario where everyone is effectively social distancing in the region. Social distancing is a valuable shield against coronavirus, but it is not as strong as staying at home.”  

The black curve shows the midpoint scenario and what the state is currently using to plan.

The above projections are dynamic and by definition will change with new underlying data. Changes in projections are largely driven by changing conditions on the ground. In summary, the Department generates these projections for the purposes of knowing what curve Louisiana is on and in what direction the state is trending. This will allow officials to better plan and allocate resources, and also so the public can clearly see that full compliance with the Stay at Home order and social distancing will produce the best possible outcome and save thousands of lives.

APRIL 2, 2020, UPDATE:

At 4 p.m. today, Louisianans will receive an emergency alert text from the state reminding them of the current stay-at-home order, which will be extended to April 30, 2020.  

Residents can opt in for state updates by texting LACOVID to 67283.

The state Department of Education is expected to release new information on what’s next for school systems after April 30 on Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during his briefing Thursday.

Louisiana saw a 42 percent spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases overnight. The increase is likely due to a logjam of roughly 160,000 tests handled private labs, Edwards said.  

The state continues to clamor for new ventilators and has renewed its federal requests for new shipments. 

Cases have been confirmed in all but three of the 64 parishes, but Edwards reassured residents the virus has spread throughout the state.  

“I promise you, there is COVID-10 in every one of those parishes and in every community in Louisiana,” he said. 

As of April 2, more than 1,600 people in the Louisiana were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 310 confirmed deaths. 

Edwards continued to urge social distancing, avoid group events  and simply stay at home.  

On a positive note, DOTD Secretary of State Dr. Shawn Wilson has recovered from the virus and it back at work, Edwards said.

APRIL 1, 2020 UPDATE: Louisiana saw a 23 percent increase in COVID- 19 cases overnight, but there are some signs a spike in “hot spots” in the New Orleans area is beginning flatten.  

 During his April 1 briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state’s trajectory in terms of the virus’ spread remains similar to Italy and Spain, which is why he reiterating the need for to Louisianans to practice social distancing and stay home. 

“We simply can’t let our foot off the gas,” the governor said.  

Models now show Region 3, which includes the state’s river parishes and St. Mary Parish, is seeing a jump in new cases, Edwards said. 

As of April 1, nearly 500 coronavirus patients are relying on ventilators, and the state remains in a dire shortage. Edwards did say the National Guard has delivered additional 150 this week. 

Louisiana Workforce Commission remains inundated with nearly 8,000 per day. Additional staff and a third-party service has been brought on to assist with unemployment claims, Edwards.   

A new $50 million small business loan program has been launched. Learn more about the program here.

March 31, 2020 UPDATE: The rapidly growing number of COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalization may cause regions of Louisiana to run out of ventilators as soon as April 4. 

The state is working with private companies and the federal government to address the state’s dire lack of medical equipment, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

During his March 31 briefing, Edwards said 1,000 additional beds will be added to the already 1,000-bed makeshift medical facility inside Earnest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans by Sunday.  

The emergency facility was established to house “non-fragile” COVID-19 patients who are less severely in need of treatment. The state’s healthcare system is facing a capacity crisis as the number of statewide cases continues rise, Edwards said.  

Louisiana saw 1,200 newly confirmed cases overnight to a total of 5,237 including 239 deaths as of March 31.  

“As you can see from the numbers today, we’ve got a long way to go,” Edwards said. The governor said the extended stay-at-home order April 30 proclamation will be signed by Friday. “We’re going to get through this, but it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy,” he said.

Later Tuesday, Edwards said he will sign a proclamation easing some licensing regulations to allow out-of-state healthcare workers to assist Louisiana in treating COVID-19 patients.  

Delta Airlines has offered to fly health care volunteers to the state for free.  

March 30, 2020– Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he plans to extend the state’s stay-at-home order to reflect the nation’s new April 30 timeline.

He said the proclamation will be signed by the end of this week. 

The number of statewide cases increased 485 overnight with 34 additional deaths in 24 hours, the governor said. Monday’s numbers from the state Department of Health and Hospitals reflect a 14 percent increase from Sunday.

The state has ordered 14,000 ventilators, including 5,000 from the federal strategic stockpile.

An 1,000-bed makeshift hospital operation is launching in New Orleans this week.  

Navy medical personnel is arriving in New Orleans and Edwards has assigned Gen. Lee Hopkins as status commander, a newly created post to lead navel staff and the Army National Guard in their relief efforts.  

Edwards continued to urge residents to adhere to the state’s stay-at-home order. “We need better compliance,” the governor said. “We can show our love by staying away from people.”

March 29, 2020 UPDATE: Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference today that the state may well have to extend his stay-at-home order beyond the initial April 13 deadline. That determination, he said, will be made in the coming weeks and will depend on the state’s ability to level off new cases of coronavirus infections.

While the press conference dealt mostly with New Orleans’ Ernest Morial Convention Center being used as a field hospital, Edwards also spoke about the number of tests leveling off statewide. Fewer test results have come in in the last 24 hours than in some of the preceding days. Edwards said a substantial backlog of test results came in during the last 48 hours, but he said fewer tests do not mean the state is ‘flattening the curve.’

“Nobody is happy with the number of tests that has been administered,” said Edwards.

He said the state is working to partner with businesses like Walmart where more public testing can be done. He also expressed a wish to get test results back to patients faster.

Edwards also said he is continuing to petition the federal government for more ventilators from the national strategic stockpile. While none have been allocated yet, Edwards expressed hope that some would be released soon.

Regardless, Edwards said the state’s hospital capacity has not been reached yet, but hospital beds may run out by April 10, based on current models.

_____

March 27, 2020, UPDATE: The number of coronavirus cases in Louisiana increased 19 percent overnight. 

During his Friday briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the new number of cases is lower than the recent daily trend, but it reflects only half of the recent test results available.

“We are assessing to see what these numbers mean,” Edwards said, adding that the state is still second highest in country in per capita coronavirus-related deaths. 

Louisiana remains the third in the country in the number COVID-19 cases under New York and Jersey.

 As of 12 p.m. on Friday, 119 deaths were confirmed statewide. Three deaths in St. Martin Parish, one in Acadia and one in Lafayette, have been confirmed by officials.

Here are key points from Friday’s briefing:

  • Louisiana public education employees will continue to receive full pay. 
  • Delta Airlines is offering to fly volunteer health care workers into the state to aid relief efforts. 
  • No roads or bridges are being closed in relation to COVID-19 mitigation.  
  • As of Friday, March 27, 2020, 12,000 ventilators have been ordered. The state has received 192 so far.  
  • Edwards continued to urge no unnecessary travel and as the state continues to be on a stay-at-home order.  

Watch the full March 27, 2020, viewed below:

March 26, 2020 UPDATE: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped nearly 30 percent overnight in Louisiana Thursday with 18 new deaths including a 17-year-old patient in Orleans Parish.

During his daily briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards said 955 members of the National Guard are assisting with newly opened screening sites throughout the state. They are also on hand to assist with makeshift medical facilities, which are expected to be utilized in the coming weeks.  

Students in the health care field as well as medical worker retirees are urged to volunteer as the state braces for a surge of patients to flood the state’s health care system. 

Edwards said the federal government is answering the state’s request for resources including two 250-bed field hospitals and a health care strike team of 60 crew members.  

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is being considered as makeshift medical facility as cases in the New Orleans continue to skyrocket. 

But with 2,305 cases confirmed throughout 53 parishes and 83 deaths reported as of Thursday, Edwards again gave a stark warning to Louisiana residents.  

“I hope the entire state is looking at these numbers and they are as concerned about them as I am,” Edwards said. “This is not some flimsy theory. This is not some scare tactic.”  

He said medical personnel are working around the clock, but it’s going to every resident in the state must do their part to stop the virus’ spread.  

“You literally have it within you the power to save lives by minimizing contact,” the governor said. “And that life could be your own.”  

You can watch the full March 26, 2020, briefing below:

March 25, 2020, UPDATE:

Wednesday’s update from Gov. John Bel Edwards was a sober warning. Overnight, more than 400 cases were added to the statewide total with 19 additional deaths. 

Forty-eight of the state’s 64 parishes have confirmed cases, but believing certain parishes are coronavirus free is denial, the governor said. 

“I can assure you, COVID is present in every single parish across the state,” Edwards said during his daily briefing. 

This week, Louisiana joined four other states requesting federal disaster assistance to relieve its health care system, which is already feeling a tightened grip due to lack of resources to treat coronavirus patients and protect workers.  

Edwards noted that the New Orleans are has received some orders of ventilators this week, but due to the rapid rate of virus cases, the region could be completely lacking in the supplies in a matter of weeks.  

“We are far from OK,” Edwards said. “If our growth continues, we could potentially run out of vents the first week in April in New Orleans area.”  

Wednesday’s briefing carried a bleaker tone than Edwards’ “be a good neighbor” message the previous day. 

He continued to urge residents to stay home and avoid public places unless necessary.  “This is real and every person in this state needs to take this seriously.”  

Hotels, convention centers are all being eyed possible locations for emergency medical facilities.  

Edwards noted that dorms are not being considered.  

March 24, 2020 UPDATE: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards reiterated the importance of Louisiana residents’ role in curbing the spread on COVID-19 spreading throughout the state. 

The virus’ intense trajectory continues to make Louisiana the third most vulnerable state in the country, with nearly 1400 confirmed cases as of Tuesday.  

Of those cases, 94 patients require ventilation, the Department of Health and Hospitals reported. Forty six deaths have been confirmed.

“Everyone has a role to play here,” Edwards said Tuesday of the statewide stay-at-home order. He continued to ask residents to think twice about how necessary it go to public places.  

“You need to ask yourself, is that second trip to the grocery store necessary today?” he said. 

State officials are bracing for the Louisiana’s health care system to be rocked by an influx of patients needing immediate care and providers unprepared due to lack of resources. Hotels, makeshift “field hospitals” are on the table as the state prepares for a “worst-case” scenario.

Which is why businesses and residents are asked to be patient and stay home, Edwards said.

“We are looking at a critical window to flatten this curve,” he said.  Public screening sites are expanding, including here in Acadiana. Iberia Parish is expected to open a site on Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, the state requested a Major Disaster Declaration in an effort to combat the spreading virus.

For those Louisiana residents who are able to stay at home and want to help, Edwards encouraged monetary donations to local food banks. The state’s blood supply is also in desperate need of donors.

March 22, 2020, ORIGINAL: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus on Monday, March 23 at 5 p.m. It will expire on April 13 unless otherwise noted by the governor.

Edwards has issued a closure for all non-essential businesses. Edwards has limited group gatherings to 10 people, as recommended by the federal government. However, state borders are NOT being closed.

The following are “essential activities” and are allowed:

MORE ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19 adf

The following are examples businesses that should close:

Edwards said the stay-at-home order was necessary as Louisiana has the fastest growth rate of any state or nation in the world. In America, Louisiana has the third-highest rate of infection per capita — just behind New York and Washington state. Without taking these measures, Edwards said Louisiana is on track to have an infection rate similar to Italy or Spain, which are currently the worst two nations for coronavirus on the planet.

“There’s no reason to believe we won’t be the next Italy,” said Edwards.

Countries like South Korea also started out on a similar trajectory as Louisiana, but also implemented strict measures to keep people isolated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We can get past this, but we’re going to have to take these mitigation measures seriously,” he said.

Edwards said the state is working on creating more ICU beds in the event that they’re needed, and he said he is also asking medical personnel who aren’t using personal protection equipment to donate them to local hospitals.

He also asked people not to spread rumors that state borders were going to be closed. He called those rumors “not true.”

Effective immediately, he said the state’s dashboard that reports the number of cases and deaths related to coronavirus will only be updated once a day at noon going forward.

Download and read the governor’s full order below:

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