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Coronavirus In Louisiana: What You Need To Know Today

Apr 3, 2020
Originally published on April 3, 2020 6:32 pm

The latest on the spread of coronavirus in New Orleans and across Louisiana today, April 3.

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6 p.m.

To continue limiting the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials in New Orleans are now recommending people wear fabric that covers their nose and mouth when running essential errands, like going to the grocery store.

New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the recommendation is to limit the spread of the virus from people who might be carrying it, but are not aware because they aren’t showing the symptoms.

“Many who are infected with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms,” Avegno said, "so there are folks that might be walking around with the virus that could potentially give it to others."

Avegno stressed that the recommendation is especially important for essential workers who come into contact with many people over the course of a day, like grocery store clerks, bank tellers and pharmacy technicians. She encouraged people to use what they have, like a bandana or a scarf, which is washable and reusable, or to make their own from fabric.

Avegno also emphasized that residents should not use medical masks — either basic surgical masks or the coveted N95 mask. Those, she said, are in limited supply nationwide, and should be reserved for medical professionals.

She also said that wearing a mask does not give anyone the excuse to gather in groups or disregard existing stay-at-home orders.

“This provides minimal protection on top of what you are already doing,” she said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell began the press conference by reviewing the latest coronavirus cases and deaths in the city: 3,476 cases and 148 deaths as of today.

The mayor went on to say that recent spikes in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus is due to backlogs of tests being completed, echoing what Gov. John Bel Edwards said earlier this week.

But, she said, "We're not at a place where we can see the curve in Orleans Parish."

Collin Arnold, director of New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said that testing has expanded dramatically in the region and that 3.6 percent of the population has been tested. That, Arnold said, includes more than 10,000 tests completed at the three drive-through testing sites in the New Orleans area.

Still, Mayor Cantrell emphasized the importance of the local and statewide stay-at-home orders and the need for social distancing.

“This virus has demonstrated that it is in control, not human beings.” Cantrell said Friday. “We cannot defy the laws of nature and expect to survive. What we have to do is listen to the mandates that come from the state and from the city of New Orleans to stay at home.”

Cantrell thanked the many New Orleans residents who have been abiding by state and local stay-at-home orders, noting that new analytics from companies like Google have shown a notable decrease in activity around town, but noted that residents should do more, or face dire consequences.

“It is time for us to be more serious about what we are facing as a city,” she said. “ We will get through this. I believe it. I know we will. But our actions will determine how we get through it — and who will be joining the second line when we celebrate, New Orleans style.”

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5:30 p.m.

The Louisiana Department of Health released a new statistical model on Friday that shows  Louisianans’ that poor compliance with social distancing measures would do little to “flatten the curve.”

The model shows differing scenarios based on how well the public participates in different mitigation efforts. This graph shows projected new hospitalizations per day under four different scenarios in Region 1 (the Greater New Orleans Area).

The high red curve is Louisiana’s baseline, or what would happen without any measures taken. This is the state’s worst-case scenario – the outbreak would peak in Region 1 before the end of April, and force nearly 4,000 new hospitalizations per day. Under this scenario, it would be impossible for the state to surge healthcare capacity to meet the area’s needs, many people would die.

The blue and purple curves show the impact of social distancing and staying at home. These are much flatter curves, meaning far fewer people enter the hospital on any one day.  The black curve shows the midpoint scenario and what the state is currently using to plan.  It is the basis for the prediction that the New Orleans area would run out of ventilators by April 7 and hospital beds by April 12.

The LDH said these projects fluctuate constantly as the state acquires more healthcare resources, more data, and a better sense of how the virus spreads through the community.

Gov. John Bel Edwads says public health officials have also used tools like Google’s Community Mobility Reports and Unacast Social Distancing Scorecard to gauge residents’ compliance with the statewide stay at home order. They show that residents of some parishes, like Orleans, East Baton Rouge and Bossier, have done a better job of social distancing.

He urged everyone to do better.

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4:40 p.m.

"I, at this point, should not have to remind you how serious this situation is," Mayor LaToya Cantrell began her Friday afternoon press conference.

The mayor went on to say that recent spikes in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus is due to backlogs of tests being completed, echoing what Gov. John Bel Edwards said earlier this week.

But, she said, "We're not at a place where we can see the curve in Orleans Parish."

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Noon

Sixty more people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

That's the biggest one-day increase in the number of deaths since the first case was reported March 9.

Another 1,147 people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total across the state to 10,297.

There are 1,707 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 535 of whom are on ventilators. That's about 31 percent of patients on ventilators — down just a bit from 32 percent yesterday.

The state lab has completed 4,037 tests and commercial labs have completed 49,608 tests, for a total of 53,645.

There are 3,476 known COVID-19 cases in Orleans Parish, where 148 people have died. In Jefferson Parish, there are 2,495 known cases and 85 people have died. St. Tammany: 435 sick and 10 dead. East Baton Rouge: 389 sick and 13 dead.

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10 a.m.

Goor morning, and welcome to another month at home.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has officially extended his stay at home order for the state of Louisiana through April 30.

“Act as if your life depends on it – because it does,” Edwards said in a press release announcing the extension. “We have seen federal modeling data that shows that Louisiana could see more than 1,800 deaths by August. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Individuals are still allowed outside for essential tasks, like picking up groceries, or going to the doctor or pharmacy. Doctors, nurses, first responders and all workers deemed essential to state infrastructure can still go to work. People are encouraged to go outside for walks or exercise while maintaining a safe social distance from other people.

Edwards consolidated all of his previous proclamations into one document, which mandates that businesses, like bars, casinos, gyms, salons, theaters, nonessential retailers and many others remain closed.

K-12 schools will also remain closed through the end of the month, with the possibility of further delays.

Restaurants are limited to delivery, take-out and drive-through service. Gatherings of 10 or more are prohibited.

“Frankly, you shouldn’t be gathering in groups at all,” Edwards said. “I’d love to see that Louisiana ingenuity put to use in finding ways to connect without being physically together. We all need to stay at home, stop the spread and save lives.”

The governor’s office released guidelines for funeral services and the licensure of healthcare workers earlier this week.

At the time of the announcement, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 9,150 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state and 310 related deaths.

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