Gov. signs executive order declaring public health emergency

Gov. signs executive order declaring public health emergency
Gov. John Bel Edwards says as of Wednesday, March 11, the state has 13 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards spoke publicly twice Wednesday, March 11 to address the spread of the coronavirus.

Edwards spoke at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday to update lawmakers on the situation. He also spoke later in the day at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP).

At the GOHSEP press conference Wednesday evening, the governor announced he has signed an executive order to declare a public health emergency for the state to help local governments handle the situation, and in an effort to prevent price gouging.

Gov. Edwards also said his office and the Louisiana Department of Health will now have two daily briefings to update the public with the latest information.

As of Thursday, March 12, state health officials reported the following:

  • 14 presumptive positive cases
  • 0 confirmed cases

Parishes with cases:

  • Caddo
  • Iberia
  • Jefferson
  • Lafourche
  • Orleans
  • St. Tammany

Eighty percent of the people infected in Louisiana have mild symptoms, and most of the Louisiana cases are in Orleans Parish, with none so far in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“The majority of current patients are hospitalized. The reality is that not everyone who tests positive will have to be hospitalized. Some will be able to self isolate at home,” said Gov. Edwards.

The governor says he expects the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus to increase over time in Louisiana.

“As more cases are confirmed, we need people, obviously, to stay calm. The risk is still low for any individual to develop COVID-19. Obviously, the risk to the community at large is increased, beyond what it was yesterday [March 10],” said Edwards.

As for testing individuals who may have symptoms of COVID-19, the state says the federal government is providing the necessary number of kits.

“We’ve had a total of 23 kits sent to us and the last set we put in a large order, and within two days, that was received by us. So, so far, we’ve had no signs that the federal government is having any difficulty in getting us kits, as we’ve expanded our requests for capacity,” said Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Office of Public Health.

While some smaller universities will shift to moving classes online, LSU has not made that decision yet. The governor says he has full confidence in higher education leaders, both public and private, to make the right decisions.

“As decisions are made, they will be announced timely. And again, I think the announcements that have come have been about a transition to online education at a later date,” said Edwards.

State officials expect more events across the state could be canceled soon.

“These cancellations are being done with the public’s health and safety in mind, and that’s always the case, that the health and safety of the public is our number one concern,” said Gov. Edwards.

Presumptive cases remain classified as such until confirmed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The CDC can take several days to return test results to the state.

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome says her office is also taking precautions.

“Tonight, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and more than 30 physicians and healthcare leaders from the Baton Rouge community gathered at Our Lady of the Lake to continue planning a coordinated response to COVID-19. Plans are being made to increase access to COVID-19 testing in a safe, efficient way,” said a statement from the mayor’s office.

The mayor's office, along with doctors at OLOL, are taking precautions against the coronavirus.
The mayor's office, along with doctors at OLOL, are taking precautions against the coronavirus. (Source: Office of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome)

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