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Gov. Edwards Requests Major Disaster Declaration For Louisiana

Ashley Dean
Downtown New Orleans seen from Crescent Park. March 19, 2020.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested a Major Disaster Declaration for Louisiana, a move that would make more federal support available to state and local agencies.

"The response to the spread of COVID-19 has overwhelmed the capabilities of state and local resources," Edwards wrote in a letter to the president. "I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and local governments."

Edwards said he expects the number of hospitalizations in the New Orleans area to “significantly exceed capacity” by April 4. The state only has 381 ICU beds available. Among other requests, Edwards is asking for a military field hospital to increase capacity.

Last week, he made a similar prediction on a conference call with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force, and asked for the authority to send patients to the federally run Veterans Affairs Hospital in New Orleans.

A Major Disaster Declaration would direct more financial and material aid to Louisiana’s fight against the coronavirus.

President Trump has already approved Major Disaster Declaration requests for California, New York and Washington, deployed the National Guard to those states and fast-tracked them to receive the first shipments of scarce personal protective equipment.

Edwards wrote that as of March 22, the response to the coronavirus had cost state and local governments more than $65.6 million.

The request details the amount of personal protective equipment it has distributed, including more than 100,000 face shields, 76,000 Tyvek suits and 48,000 N95 respirators.

In his public remarks, Edwards has consistently said that Louisiana has the third-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita and a death toll that trails only New York, Washington and California.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that the state has 1,388 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 46 related deaths.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.