By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Though Louisiana health officials announced 53 new COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the state’s overall numbers continue to move in the right direction, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
Edwards continued urging residents to obey the state’s “stay at home” order while keeping in mind that life won’t go back to normal any time soon.
“We’re in a better place today,” Edwards said. “Now is not the time to let up.”
A few weeks ago, the greater New Orleans region, one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots, was on pace to run out of hospital beds and ventilators, Edwards said at the time. Right now, there is no region of the state where the health care system is in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases during the next two weeks, Edwards said Thursday.
New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell has extended her city’s “stay at home” order through May 16. The statewide order expires April 30.
Edwards has said at least some of the mitigation measures – which close some businesses, limit others and ban large gatherings – will be extended into next month, though some may be modified. On Thursday he announced creation of a new commission to help guide those decisions in hopes of balancing public health with economic recovery.
“We’re going to make some mistakes,” Edwards said, noting that dealing with the new coronavirus has been a learning process for everyone involved.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who joined Edwards, praised efforts to “address and contain this virus,” but said it’s not time to “take our foot off the gas” and ease mitigation efforts such as social distancing. He said new types of COVID-19 tests are being rolled out and claimed the experimental use of drugs already approved for other ailments has “cured” some patients.
Scalise has been named to a presidential task force that will work on how to reopen the nation’s economy. Both of Louisiana’s U.S. senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, announced they had been named to the same task force.
Asked how the pandemic might affect preparations for hurricane season, Edwards said he expected to lift the “stay at home” order before June 1 when the season starts. If necessary, state officials will open more shelters than they might have otherwise to allow for social distancing and provide personal protective equipment at shelters.
He said a hurricane planning exercise is scheduled for May 14 and expressed hope that the virus will be far less prevalent during the usual height of hurricane season in late August and early September.
As of noon Thursday, at least 1,156 Louisiana residents had died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. LDH said 1,914 COVID patients were hospitalized and 396 of them were on ventilators.