‘Louisiana is in the third surge of this pandemic’: Gov. Edwards gives stern warning to residents one week before Thanksgiving holiday

Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 9:10 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards gave a stern warning to Louisiana residents about the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in the state and urged them to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 19.

Gov. Edwards, who was joined by two doctors, said the situation in Louisiana is dire with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise for the third time this year.

“Make no mistake, Louisiana is in the third surge of this pandemic,” Gov. Edwards said.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reported more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the third day in a row Thursday. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized due to the virus also surpassed 900 for the first time since late August.

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The governor said Thursday the number of hospitalizations in Louisiana increased by more than 250 patients in just one week. He said CEOs of Louisiana’s hospitals told him earlier Thursday that the outlook for the state’s hospital capacity was “grim” if cases do not trend downward.

Gov. Edwards called the rise in both cases and hospitalizations over the last few days a “disturbing trend” and said officials with the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force informed him that this surge was worse than the first two surges that happened in the spring and summer.

He said the spread of cases was likely from people gatherings and failing to practice COVID-19 prevention measures over the Halloween weekend. The governor said it was critical that residents change their plans for Thanksgiving to ensure the gatherings were small and were only with members of their immediate household, otherwise the holiday would be a catalyst for cases to continue to rise at an exponential rate. Families should also anticipate minimizing gatherings for Christmas too, he said. (See the governor’s full news conference in the video below).

One of the governor’s two guest speakers at the news conference, Dr. Christopher Thomas with the COVID-19 unit at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge gave an impassioned speech imploring Louisiana residents to take responsibility to help their fellow residents and loved ones.

Dr. Thomas said he, himself, contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and called it a “scary” experience despite his medical knowledge and experience treating patients with the virus. He said he and his staff have treated the sickest patients they’ve ever seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The doctor said every Louisiana resident should consider themselves a “healthcare provider” because they have the ability to prevent the virus from spreading to others particularly, their loved ones.

Dr. Thomas said the issue with hospital capacity is not whether a hospital has enough beds but instead whether a hospital has adequate staff to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. He said his staff is tired and stressed out and with more COVID-19 patients, the more likely hospital staffers are to contract the virus themselves. The doctor also said additional personnel cannot be brought in from other parts of the U.S. because hospitals in every state are also dealing with a surge in patients.

“We wouldn’t ask the LSU Tigers to play a game against three other teams,” Dr. Thomas said.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, LDH’s interim assistant secretary of public health, echoed Gov. Edwards’ message of keeping Thanksgiving holiday gatherings small saying the risk of transmission of the coronavirus is higher when you bring people from outside your home inside your home. He also said large gatherings inside without masks increased the chances for the virus to spread.

Dr. Kanter called the progress being made by Moderna and Pfizer on COVID-19 vaccines “a light at the end of the tunnel.” However, Dr. Kanter said we have to focus on reducing cases and hospitalizations now.

Gov. Edwards added saying that once a COVID-19 vaccine is available it will take months before it’s actually available to the general public. Hospitals and nursing homes have the first priority in receiving the vaccine in Louisiana.

“I think it is fair to say, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but I just want you to know it’s a very long tunnel. And if we want to live to see it, there’s some things we have to do today and continue to do until we can finally put this [pandemic] in the rearview mirror,” Gov. Edwards said.

Here’s a snapshot of hospitals in our region as of November 19:

-There are a total of 169 patients hospitalized for COVID in the Ochsner systems throughout Louisiana

- Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center has 49 patients.

- There are 37 at Baton Rouge General’s Bluebonnet and Mid City locations.

“We have seen our hospitalizations go up this week. Particularly in the last 48 hours. We’re seeing a number of sicker Covid patients than we were earlier in the week and certainly more than last week,” said Dr. Louis Minksy, Chief of Staff at Baton Rouge General.

Dr. Minsky says Louisiana is paralleling the previous two COVID-19 spikes, and the worst may still be ahead.

“We’re already in the uprise for the third spike. And if it started this week, then 7 to 14 days later, is when that hospital capacity starts to surge up,” he said.

While doctors are utilizing a number of therapy treatments to help Covid patients, and have better knowledge about the virus now, medical workers are worn out.

The big fear is with Thanksgiving so close, it’s tempting to let your guard down. But doctors say now is the time to buckle down.

“Until there is a vaccine available for the general public which is still a number of months away, we need to be doing all we can, to help one another,” said Dr. Kanter.

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