Edwards to extend 'shelter-in-place'

John Dupont
Plaquemine Post South

BATON ROUGE – Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday he will extend the “shelter-in-place program” a move that will come as coronavirus cases continues to increase across Louisiana.

Edward announced the plan during a press briefing Monday at the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. He met with reporters three hours after the latest Louisiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 advisory listed more than 4,000 cases across – an increase of more than 700 from the previous day’s totals.

His intentions followed the directive President Donald Trump issued Sunday to extend the national social-distancing period until April 30.

It’s helpful for states like ours that are nowhere near being over the hump,” Edwards said. “We have a lot of work to do to flatten the curve.”

He will issue the proclamation in line with Trump’s mandate but will first seek revisions and guidance from the Center for Disease Control and the state Department of Health.

The state remains No. 3 in per capita cases and No. 2 in deaths from coronavirus across the United States.

The shortage of ventilators and other equipment make the “shelter in place” and “social distancing” mandates more critical for the state, he said.

The ventilators are our biggest need, but there’s not much progress to report about,” Edwards said.

Louisiana estimates the New Orleans area will run out of ventilator capacity on April 5, though this number changes as the state receives ventilators.

Prior to this announcement, Louisiana had received 292 ventilators from vendors, including 100 ventilators on Monday.

This morning, President Trump committed to me that he would make sure that Louisiana received ventilators. He has just announced that we will get 150 ventilators, which will be the first we have received from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, though I surely hope they will not be the last. We don’t yet know when they will arrive in state or exactly what type of ventilators they are. But I very much appreciate this support.

While this does not meet our overall need, each ventilator we get in Louisiana helps us extend the timeframe that we can provide care to Louisianans who are ill, which is critical as we deal with the growing threat of COVID-19 in our state,” Edwards said.

In total, Louisiana has ordered 14,000 ventilators, including 5,000 from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile. Louisiana has the third highest number of cases per capita, and I will continue to fight to make sure our state’s needs are not lost in the national conversation.”

The state Department of Health received 191 so far and expects another shipment of 100 or so soon.

The flow of personal equipment has improved and will play out over an extended period of time, he said, but the state needs to keep it coming in at greater numbers.

From the emergency management perspective, what makes this so unlike anything else in terms of natural disasters is that typically when those things happen in Louisiana and maybe two other states impacted, our sister states send trucks, food, helicopters … all kinds of stuff, and the federal government focuses on our needs,” Edwards said. “That doesn’t exist in this situation because all other states are simultaneously engaged in the same fight.”

The state may have slightly better luck in hospital beds in Region 1 – the Orleans/Jefferson Parish area – where more than one-third of the state’s positive cases have been reported.

The Ernest Morial Convention Center will serve as the makeshift care facility for noncritical patients. The hospital will start with a 1,000-bed capacity, but the arena has room for additional beds.

He once more commended President Trump, this time for granting a request for Title 32 Protection from the Army National Guard., which unlocks protections and benefits for National Guard personnel and airme.

The protection – which will last 30 days – has been used for Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav, along with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Assistance from both the National Guard and Navy will mark what Edwards believes is the first time the state has appointed a dual-status commander for the National Guard and Navy. Gen. Lee Hopkins will serve as commander.

The state can alleviate the shortage of hospitals and patient care equipment, but only with help from residents.

He reiterated the need for full compliance of the “shelter in place” and “social distancing” mandates.

Edwards said he has not put pressure on entities for noncompliance, including Life Tabernacle Church in Central, which has hosted services for crowds as large as 1,000 over the during the last two weeks.

I can’t put pressure on officials to enforce it, but I do implore those to imply” he said. “The coronavirus spreads quickly and more easily than the flu.

The single biggest thing people can do to help is to stay home and practice social distancing,” he said. “It’s the best way to be a good neighbor.”