A bombshell was dropped on the people of Louisiana Thursday afternoon.
Leading up to his 3:30 p.m. press coronavirus press conference, most expected Gov. John Bel Edwards to give a breakdown of his conversation with President Trump, but also make comments about rumors regarding the use of the National Guard and the state of education.
Both of those topics were touched, but it was the message at the end of the gathering that got people's attention.
"If the people of Louisiana don't take these mitigation measures seriously, we could look like Italy," Edwards said, leaving the presser on a sobering note.
Edwards said that Louisiana's per capita cases of the coronavirus continue to lead the nation, and even in Orleans Parish the raw numbers are No. 7 - with Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) at No. 8.
The governor was on the phone with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence before the press conference imploring them for assistance with protecting against "hospital surge." 'Surge' is the need for intensive care unit equipment, beds, and staff in the face of a potential flood of sick patients.
Edwards' plea came from a model he cited that was delivered to him just minutes before his call with the president. While Edwards said, out of responsibility, he would not release exactly what the model said he did iterate that it was the worst case scenario.
That worst case scenario showed Louisiana without necessary healthcare staff, beds, and equipment within the next five days.
"If you look at new cases," Edwards explained, "and how long it takes to double cases - our trajectory is basically what they had in Italy."
The governor asked Louisiana residents to take the mitigation efforts seriously, so that he would not have to activate more serious measures. Those mitigation efforts include:
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Staying home if sick, and only leaving if necessary
- Staying 6 feet or more from others in public
- Disinfecting common surfaces in the home
- Keeping public gatherings to 50 people or less, private gatherings to 10 or less
Attorney General Jeff Landry stated at a press conference yesterday that the governor was well within his rights, through the health department and a health crises, that his actions were being performed to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus.
Coronavirus cases are reported twice a day, at 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. by the Louisiana Department of Health. The governor warned that more tests were flowing through the department for confirmation, and that residents of Louisiana should expect more spikes in positive case numbers, and deaths, in the coming days.
The novel coronavirus surged overnight to 347 positive cases in Louisiana, nearly 70 more than the previous afternoon’s figures, the Department of Health has reported.
In the latest figures released Thursday morning, West Baton Rouge, Lafayette, St. James, and Plaquemines parishes are the newest parishes with confirmed cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to the Department of Health’s graphic.
Fatalities from the coronavirus doubled in just over a day, going from four Tuesday afternoon to eight as of Thursday morning, including the first in Jefferson Parish on Wednesday.
There has not been a confirmed case in Livingston Parish, but three neighboring parishes have been affected by the coronavirus: East Baton Rouge, which borders to the west; St. John the Baptist, which borders to the southeast, on the other side of Lake Maurepas; and Ascension Parish, which borders to the southwest.
The governor also added that he had signed a proclamation to suspend student, teacher, and school-level testing and responsibility reports for the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The News has reached out to Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy for comment.
The National Guard, the governor said, was in place to provide site security for testing sites and warehouses for testing kits. 398 National Guardsmen have been deployed, but his request of the federal government was not to activate martial law, but flexibility in funding the national guard, he said.