Coronavirus In Louisiana: What You Need To Know Today, April 10
The latest on the spread of coronavirus in New Orleans and across Louisiana.
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Gov. John Bel Edwards said in his daily briefing Friday that the latest update from the Louisiana Department of Health shows that the state is beginning to “flatten the curve” as it fights the coronavirus.
The total number of cases in the state increased by 970 and another 53 people have died. The number of people on ventilators also rose, but not enough to negate the decreases made over the last six days.
Edwards said this is proof that social distancing is working, and urged the state’s residents to stay home so the outlook can continue to improve.
Edwards opened the briefing with a remembrance of State Representative Reggie Bagala. Bagala was a first-term lawmaker, representing portions of Lafourche and the southernmost tip of Jefferson Parish, which includes Grand Isle.
“Just about three months ago he was sworn in to his first term, and I know that he came to the state capitol with excitement and eagerness to serve the people of this state and of House District 54,” Edwards said. “Today the entire state is mourning this great loss.”
Bagala previously served as the legislative auditor and parish administrator for Lafourche Parish.
Task Force on Racial Disparity
Edwards announced that the state is launching a task force to study the apparent racial disparity in coronavirus deaths in the state. He said the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will bring together doctors, academics and public health workers to determine why black people account for 70 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths, but only one-third of the state’s population.
He said their assignment is threefold:
- Make sure communities with health disparities are blanketed with good information on COVID-19 safety.
- Provide the medical community with best practices and protocols for treating communities with underlying medical conditions and health disparities.
- Ensure testing availability and ease of access in all communities.
The state has a clear picture of how many black people have died because of COVID-19, but aren’t sure how many have the disease or how many have been tested. Edwards says that’s because the vast majority of the more than 92,000 test results the Louisiana Department of Health has received came from commercial labs, which don’t include a patient’s race when they report results.
Edwards said health department officials are working to change that.
Federal Correctional Institution at Oakdale
Edwards said he has not communicated with federal authorities about the coronavirus outbreak at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana. On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that 39 inmates and 17 staff at Oakdale have tested positive for COVID-19. Six inmates have died.
Edwards said the outbreak at Oakdale is a “grave concern” but he’s hopeful that directives issued by Attorney General William Barr aimed at reducing the federal prison population will help slow the spread of the virus.
“He singled out that prison in Louisiana as one of a handful that caused him to issue some guidance about furloughing prisoners to home under certain circumstances,” Edwards said. “What we have been doing is talking to the regional hospitals that have been taking those people into their care.”
Archbishop Gregory Aymond
It's Good Friday on the Christian calendar, and Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans joined the press conference via Zoom to offer a prayer for the Louisianans celebrating Easter this weekend. He also offered a blessing for members of the Jewish community celebrating Passover.
Aymond was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month, but has since recovered.
Charles Crowson, Walmart’s senior manager of corporate communications, told New Orleans Pubic Radio that Walmart employees are being given screening questionnaires, temperature checks and masks at all locations as of today.
Citing HIPAA, he said the retailer would not disclose any information to the public on coronavirus cases in their stores.
When asked whether employees were being notified about sick coworkers, Crowson said, “We have policies for the protection of our associates,” but declined to share specific policy information, citing legal reasons.
He also declined to comment on questions about liability waivers.
The Louisiana Department of Health reports another 53 people dead of COVID-19 and another 970 people who tested positive.
In total, 755 people have died and 19,253 have tested positive.
The number of people on ventilators rose for the first time in six days, by six. There are 479 people on ventilators and 2,054 people in hospitals with COVID-19.
Nearly half (235) of the people on ventilators are in Orleans Parish, and there are another 343 ventilators available there.
The availiblity of ICU beds in more rural parishes continues to look dire.
There are 5,416 known cases in Orleans Parish and 255 people have died there. There 4,678 known cases in Jefferson Parish, where 165 people have died. In East Baton Rouge Parish, there are 1,88 known cases and 39 people are dead.
Commercial and state labs have completed 92,280 tests.
Maya Smith works as a cashier at a Walmart in New Orleans. She is 21 years old, a single mom, and she just walked out in protest of her workplace conditions.
Maya needs the paycheck to support her 2-year-old daughter and younger siblings who live with her, but she worried she was putting her life and family at risk every time she went to work.
“We’re just open. We interact with everyone. We touch everything," she said. "It’s really unsafe and unsanitary to be working in those conditions, knowing what’s going on.”
Last week, the stakes were raised even more when one of Maya’s co-workers tested positive for coronavirus. According to Maya, her supervisors did little to ensure that others didn’t become infected. They did not disclose the name of their sick coworker or provide any testing to those that came into contact with them. And, she said, several workers were sent home without pay for wearing masks.
“Our managers told us to be safe and stay healthy,” she said, “but they still didn’t allow us to wear masks and gloves.”
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