Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday that new data models show a better outlook for Louisiana in its fight against the coronavirus, even as the state department of health reported an additional 70 COVID-19 related deaths — the largest single-day increase to date.
Edwards said testing delays and Louisianan’s high rates of comorbid conditions make it difficult to use case totals and related deaths to track the outbreak. Instead, the state is basing their models on new hospitalizations and ventilator usage.
Edwards and LDH officials say according to those metrics, the state is in a better position than it was one week ago.
“We still cannot say with absolute confidence that the curve is flattening, but we are still seeing more evidence that we are moving in that direction,” Edwards said at his Tuesday press briefing.
He added that the state no longer expects the New Orleans region to exceed its ventilator capacity “in the next 10 days to two weeks." He credited the success of social distancing measures, the state’s acquisition of 793 ventilators and evolving healthcare protocols that aim to keep COVID-19 patients off ventilators as long as possible.
As a result, Edwards said the state has scaled back its search for additional ventilators.
Last week, Edwards said the state had placed orders for more than 14,000 ventilators of varying quality. Now he said the state has scaled back its requests, and is seeking about 1,000 ICU-grade ventilators.
Edwards was quick to add that all of the models are based on the assumption that people will continue to comply with the social distancing measures that will remain in place through April 30.
“Just because we think we’re starting to flatten the curve doesn’t mean our job is over,” Edwards said. “Now is the time to double down. This is still going to be a very difficult week.”
Louisiana’s high death rate, particularly among black people, remains a major concern. Approximately one-third of Louisiana’s population is black, but so far more than 70 percent of the Louisiana residents who have died from COVID-19 were black.
Edwards said the racial disparity is troubling and deserves further study.
“We know that the comorbidities that make people particularly vulnerable to this disease are those that are more prevalent in the African American community,” Edwards said.
More than 66 percent of those who have died had hypertension. Nearly 43 percent had diabetes, 25 percent were obese or suffered from kidney disease, and 22 percent had from heart disease.
“The results are similar in Chicago, in Detroit, in Milwaukee and other places,” Edwards said. “So there might be something larger than health disparities here in Louisiana, I just don’t know.”