Gov. Edwards says state has received only 192 of the 12,000 ventilators it needs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana has received fewer than 200 of the 12,000 ventilators it has requested to serve its rapidly growing population of COVID-19 patients, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday.

Ventilators are the biggest equipment need for the state’s medical surge. Additional health care providers also are needed, and on Friday, Edwards announced Delta Air Lines would fly in qualified volunteers for free.

The number of new cases in Louisiana has increased 19 percent since Thursday, compared to a 28 percent increase the day before. However, the more recent increase reflected only half as many tests as the previous day’s, Edwards said, so there is still no evidence the spread of the new coronavirus is slowing.

“It shows no signs yet of abating,” he said.

Louisiana is currently third in the nation in cases per capita and second in deaths per capita, Edwards said.

As of Friday’s mid-day update, the Louisiana Department of Health was reporting 119 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Officials reported 2,764 cases from 54 of the state’s 64 parishes; 773 patients were hospitalized and 270 of them were on ventilators. State officials are not yet able to track the number of people who have recovered.

While 10 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes still do not have a reported case, health officials believe that is largely because so few residents of rural parishes have been tested. Louisiana is among the top five states in the nation in coronavirus tests per capita, Edwards said.

“I can assure you, it’s in every parish and every community across the state of Louisiana,” he said.

Of the patients who have died, 69 were age 70 or above, though one was only 17. An early analysis indicates about 41 percent of the people who died had diabetes, 31 percent had kidney disease and 28 percent were obese, state health officials say.

According to current projections, the greater New Orleans region will run out of ventilators by April 2 or April 3. State officials have requested 12,000 ventilators, including 5,000 from the strategic national stockpile and the rest from private vendors.

To date, 192 have been acquired and put into use, and 100 more are expected to arrive next week. The federal government has not provided any yet, Edwards said.

During his press briefing Friday, Edwards addressed the national conversation about whether New Orleans should have canceled Mardi Gras to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He noted that there were only 15 cases nationwide at the time and that no federal officials suggested cancellation.

The federal government is sending Louisiana two 250-bed field hospitals and 60 people to staff them to help care for the state’s COVID-19 patients, Edwards announced Thursday. State officials had requested four such hospitals.

State officials also are setting up a 1,100-bed medical facility at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. These temporary “step-down” treatment centers for patients who are beginning to recover are meant to allow hospitals to provide beds for patients with more critical needs.

Qualified medical professionals who want to help with Louisiana’s medical surge can visit covid-19lavolunteers.org and lava.dhh.louisiana.gov for more information.

Louisiana Economic Development has set up a help desk that provides email and hotline support for Louisiana businesses impacted by COVID-19 that can be reached at LEDbiz@la.gov or (833) 457-0531. The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, though high call volumes might result in delays, officials say.