Louisiana News

Louisiana taking drastic measures as Gov. Edwards asks everyone to help 'flatten the curve'

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday urged Louisiana residents to work together to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections to prevent health care providers from being overwhelmed.
All bars, casinos, theaters, gyms and fitness centers in the state are directed to close by midnight until at least April 13, though it is likely that deadline will be extended, Edwards said. Restaurants are takeout and delivery only, and crowds larger than 50 are banned.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is suggesting high-risk people, such as senior citizens and those with certain underlying health conditions, avoid groups larger than 10. Everyone is urged to stay home as much as possible and leave at least six feet of space between themselves and others when they must interact.
“We have to flatten the curve so that the peak of transmissions is not as high as it would otherwise be and that the duration is extended out,” Edwards said. “We cannot run the risk of overwhelming our capacity to meet the demand for medical services,” as is happening in other countries that “didn’t take aggressive mitigation measures early enough.”
Slowing down the spread of the virus, not stopping it, is the best that can be hoped for, he said.
Edwards has mobilized the state National Guard to help stand up drive-through testing sites in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. The testing sites are reserved for first responders, health care workers and people in high-risk groups who have symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and a doctor’s referral. A site with similar criteria is now open at the Baton Rouge General’s Mid City campus, officials said.
People who are sick are urged to contact a health care provider to discuss their next steps. People who do not have a primary care provider can call 211, officials said.
Public schools statewide are closed. Day care centers are not being told to close, though Edwards suggested parents who are able to care for their children at home should do so.
As of Monday morning, 136 people had tested positive for the virus in Louisiana, including 94 in the New Orleans area and one in Ascension Parish that is the first positive test in the Capital Region. Three deaths have been reported.
“No one should have a false sense of security” if their parish does not yet have a positive case, Edwards said, noting that Louisiana has one of the highest per-capita rates in the country. “It is likely a matter of time before there is a case in your area.”
He said local leaders are “all in agreement that mitigation measures need to be stepped up significantly and immediately here and around the country.”
The Louisiana Legislature currently is on hiatus until March 31, which is the last day to file bills for the current session. While it is unknown at this point how often the legislature will be able to meet or how much business they will be able to do, there are a dozen “must pass” bills lawmakers “absolutely have to have before July 1” when the next fiscal year begins, Edwards said. The session started March 9 and is scheduled to end June 1.
Edwards did not list the legislation he had in mind. He presumably was talking about spending bills that are constitutionally mandated, along with legislation that would re-authorize a number of state government departments.
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday ordered all jury trials scheduled through March 27 be rescheduled for a date no sooner than March 30. Trials in progress may continue at the local court’s discretion.
Most civil trials and hearings also are being pushed back. Criminal initial appearances and arraignments for incarcerated people will be held by phone and video conference whenever possible, the state Supreme Court says.
Presidential preference primaries scheduled for April 4 have been moved back to June 20. The Louisiana Republican Party says congressional caucuses planned for March 28 have been rescheduled for “mid-April,” the party says.
State museum and welcome centers are closed until at least March 31, though in most cases the restrooms at welcome centers will remain open, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office says.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain is urging Louisiana domestic pet owners to not abandon or surrender their pets to animal control agencies if they are able to take care of them.
“We understand these are uncertain times, but pet shelters are being overrun with people giving up their pets,” Strain said.
Though experts do not believe pets can become infected with the new coronavirus, they can “temporarily harbor the virus” on their bodies, Strain’s office says. People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are urged to let a family member care for their pet(s) or stay at least six feet away from them if help is not available. A local veterinary clinic, boarding facility or animal shelter may be able to care for a pet if the owner is hospitalized.
“If possible, keep extra food and medications on hand,” Strain said. “Also, wash your hands before and after handling your pets, their food and supplies.”
COVID-19 is the official name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing and trouble breathing.
Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
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