Louisiana Gov.: No coronavirus cases yet, but a matter of ‘when, not if’

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana does not have any confirmed coronavirus infections yet, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday, though that is expected to change.

“We do believe it’s a matter of when, not if,” he said, which he said is “cause for concern” but not “cause for panic.”

Louisiana’s Unified Command Group met Monday to discuss the state’s response to the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Edwards has launched a COVID-19 task force including state and federal officials that is recommending all state agencies review their continuity of operations plans to take coronavirus into account.

Louisiana officials have been in “near daily” contact with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Edwards said. He said he and other governors had a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and other federal officials Monday.

“The threat to the general population across the country and here in Louisiana remains low, although the risk of exposure is higher now than it was just a few days ago,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana Office of Public Health is able to test for the virus following referrals by a health care provider, Edwards said. An initial positive test will be referred to the CDC for confirmation, he said, adding that testing capacity has not been a concern.

Edwards said a “couple dozen” Louisiana residents who might have been exposed were asked to stay home until the risk of spreading the virus has passed, but no one has tested positive or been quarantined, he said.

He said the administration plans to inform the public when a confirmed case has been discovered in the state. In the meantime, he asked people not to believe rumors and to do all of the things they would do to prevent the spread of the flu, such as washing hands thoroughly, covering your mouth with the crook of your elbow if you cough, and not going to work if you’re sick. Updates will be posted at ldh.la.gov/coronavirus

“There is absolutely no need to panic,” Edwards said. “That’s exactly the wrong thing to do.”