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Hurricane Ida Recovery: Louisiana Elections Delayed; Edwards Addresses Death Toll

A live oak tree ripped apart by Hurricane Ida’s winds in Baton Rouge’s Garden District. August 30, 2021.
Aubry Procell
A live oak tree ripped apart by Hurricane Ida’s winds in Baton Rouge’s Garden District. August 30, 2021.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order Thursday delaying the state’s fall elections into November due to the disruption caused by Hurricane Ida.

Edwards said during a press conference Thursday afternoon that he made the decision to move the election date a month later — from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 — because he was not confident the state would meet pre-election deadlines required by law.

“Holding the elections as currently scheduled would impair the integrity of the elections,” Edwards said he was briefed by Louisiana Secretary of state Kyle Ardoin.

Run-off elections occur on December 11. Early voting will begin on October 30 for the first election date and November 27 for the run-off date.

The governor also addressed the hurricane’s growing death toll, now at 26 as of Wednesday, after the state’s health department confirmed nine deaths from excessive heat.

Official causes include:

  • 10 from power outages in the New Orleans area
  • 6 from carbon monoxide poisoning
  • 5 connected to nursing homes
  • 2 from drowning
  • 1 related to an oxygen outage
  • 1 from falling off a roof
  • 1 from a tree falling

Louisiana health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter shared some slightly optimistic news when it came to the state’s coronavirus numbers: hospitalizations peaked around August 17 and have decreased by about 40% since then.

However, Kanter said he worries that Ida could lead to hospitalizations rising again.

“Given the disruption that this storm presented to us, there’s no guarantee that we continue on this downward trajectory,” Kanter said.

The deadly hurricane has also made it harder to track COVID cases. Kanter noted that COVID-19 testing is down 45% over the past two weeks.

He said there’s now West Nile mosquito activity in at least 21 parishes, with five confirmed cases and three unconfirmed cases of the neuroinvasive disease across five parishes. The disease can lead to permanent disability and occasionally can be fatal. One of the confirmed cases is new this week, and Kanter said he was informed of the three unconfirmed cases this morning.

The state has mosquito operations right now to deal with the threat, but recommends people protect themselves by staying inside, using bug repellant and wearing long sleeves.

People should check their property every few days to flip over any sources of standing water, such as plant saucers, lawn equipment and debris, Kanter added.

He also urged those suffering from mental health issues related to the storm to call 866-310-7977 for free counseling provided by the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health.

Edwards noted in the press conference the progress being made, though slowly, in terms of fixing extensive damage caused by Ida and providing necessary services once again to the state’s residents. Several water systems no longer have boil water notices, though about 152 systems still have the warning. About 460,000 are still under those boil water notices.

The first “blue roof” was installed Wednesday in Orleans Parish, part of an Army Corps of Engineers program that temporarily repairs roofs damaged by Ida. The Blue Roof program was announced on September 1.

Edwards also encouraged eligible Louisiana residents impacted by the storm to pre-register for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. DNSAP helps low-income families that do not qualify for SNAP to purchase groceries.

The governor also announced a new Hurricane Ida Relief And Recovery Fund that would provide grants to nonprofit organizations working on both short-term relief and long-term recovery needs. The organizations include:

  • Greater New Orleans Foundation
  • Northshore Community Foundation
  • Bayou Community Foundation
  • Baton Rouge Area Foundation