Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state will be limiting visitation in nursing homes, prisons and jails over the next 30 days to curtail the spread of coronavirus among at risk populations.
Edwards’ announcement came in a joint press conference with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams Thursday morning.
The Louisiana Department of Health updated its count of coronavirus cases to 14 after another resident of the Lambeth House retirement home in New Orleans registered a “presumptive positive” test result.
The cases still have to be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. So far, the CDC has affirmed all of the presumptive positive tests conducted in state health labs across the country.
Adams' visit was scheduled well before the coronavirus was elevated to a public health emergency, but the outbreak was the clear focus of the conversation.
Adams said now that coronavirus is prevalent across the nation, state and federal health officials have shifted their focus from containment to mitigation — slowing the spread to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.
To do this, Adams encouraged the use of “non-pharmaceutical” measures, like frequent hand washing, avoiding large gatherings and staying home if sick.
Edwards said that the state is closely monitoring the cancelation of large-public events, and is considering whether or not it should impose restrictions on “gatherings of a certain size.”
About 80 percent of people who develop COVID-19, especially those under the age of 60, will experience mild symptoms. But older individuals face a much higher mortality rate and are more likely to experience symptoms that would require hospitalization. Adams said that is why state and federal officials have focused their testing and resources on aging populations.
“We’re trying to thread the needle here,” Adams said. “We don’t want anyone to think we’re minimizing the significance of this public health threat.”
He praised Edwards for his preliminary decision to limit visitation in nursing homes, prisons and jails, where there are large concentrations of the elderly and people who cannot avoid close personal contact.
“That is who we really need to focus in like a laser beam on protecting,” he added.
Edwards urged younger people to assess their personal risk and take precautions to avoid spreading the virus to elderly relatives.
“We owe it to our loved ones, to those who are older, to those who have chronic underlying conditions, to do everything we can to not infect them, because we know they are the most susceptible to the worst outcomes,” Edwards said.