By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to extend the state’s “stay at home” order until April 30 to match the White House’s new recommendation, Edwards said Monday.
The current order is set to expire April 13. Edwards said he expected to announce an extension later this week.
Edwards has issued a series of increasingly restrictive orders closing many types of businesses and limiting others, while asking residents to stay home as much as possible and limit direct contact with other people to limit the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal is to reduce the number of people who get sick at the same time so the health care system is not overwhelmed with patients.
During his almost-daily coronavirus press briefings, Edwards has expressed frustration with people who are not complying with the stay-at-home directive. But he has not announced any new enforcement measures, suggesting that forcing Louisiana’s 4.7 million people to stay home is not realistic, and he said Monday he was not leaning on local officials to shut down gatherings such as worship services in their jurisdictions.
“We just need more compliance,” he said Monday.
Since Sunday, the number of COVID-19 tests increased 22 percent while the number of new cases increased 14 percent, which qualifies as a “slight positive trend,” Edwards said. But health officials don’t know if the trend will hold, and the greater New Orleans region still is on pace to run out of ventilators and hospital beds by early next month. Edwards had no new information to offer about the thousands of ventilators the state has requested from federal and private sources.
Edwards said a Navy medical unit of up to 200 people from Jacksonville, Fla., will support the state’s “medical surge” in New Orleans. Edwards has appointed Brig. Gen. Lee Hopkins of the Louisiana National Guard “dual-status commander” over the Guard members and the Navy team, which Edwards said may be a first in state history.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services will give every recipient of SNAP food benefits the maximum amount allowed by law, Secretary Marketa Walters said Monday. She said the department has been receiving three times as many SNAP applications as usual.
Edwards said sheriffs, district attorneys and judges are working to keep the number of people in jail awaiting trial as low as possible while still protecting public safety. He said the Department of Corrections is not holding nonviolent offenders for “technical” parole violations and is considering releasing some nonviolent offenders early.
Louisiana has the third-highest rate of known COVID-19 cases relative to its population and the second-highest death rate, Edwards said.
In Monday’s midday update, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 4,025 cases of COVID-19 from 59 of the state’s 64 parishes and 185 deaths. LDH said 1,158 patients were hospitalized and 385 of them were on ventilators.
Almost all of the people who have died from the illness had some sort of chronic health condition, according to LDH. Diabetes, present in 40 percent of cases, was the most common, followed by obesity (25 percent) and kidney disease (23 percent). Only 3 percent had “no underlying conditions,” LDH said.
Orleans Parish had 1,480 cases and 86 deaths, while neighboring Jefferson Parish had 838 cases and 37 deaths. COVID-19 “clusters,” defined as two or more cases that appear to be connected, had been found in 28 of the state’s 436 nursing homes and adult residential care facilities, LDH said.