Gov. Edwards announces launch of statewide COVID-19 vaccine hotline; discusses agenda for upcoming legislative session

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at a news conference about COVID-19 on Thursday, April...
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at a news conference about COVID-19 on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Baton Rouge, La.(WAFB)
Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:43 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a news conference Thursday, April 8 about the state’s continued fight against COVID the coronavirus and discuss the upcoming legislative session.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine hotline is now available for La. residents

The governor urged residents who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so and to continue wearing masks. All Louisiana residents 16 and older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on March 29. The governor announced the launch of a new vaccine hotline to provide questions people may have about the vaccine. The number is 1-855-453-0774.

Several media outlets have reported that demand for the vaccine has decreased despite increased availability and eligibility.

RELATED: COVID-19 Vaccine, Testing Locations

“Now, we’re in the trenches,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder told The Advocate, in reference to the challenge public health officials now face in convincing residents who are hesitant about getting vaccinated.

As of Thursday, 898,262 Louisiana residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). Fully vaccinated means someone has either received two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-manufactured vaccines or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson-manufactured vaccine.

LDH officials say 2.15 million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been administered in Louisiana so far. Coronavirus hospitalizations have remained on a downward trend in Louisiana, ever since the state moved to Phase 3 of reopening its economy on March 3. Officials are encouraged by the numbers but there are still reasons for caution and concern, especially growing numbers of the UK variant.

Dr. Joe Kanter, the governor’s chief public health adviser, said they are now tracking “breakthrough” cases. Those are people who have been fully vaccinated and still test positive for COVID-19. He stated there have been 170 cases in Louisiana so far and they have been people ages 23 through 98. He added 11 of those people had to be hospitalized.

Under Phase 3, businesses such as restaurants, salons, and malls can operate at 75% capacity. Gyms can operate at 50% capacity. Bars in all parishes of the state can operate at 25% capacity and at 50% capacity in parishes with coronavirus positivity rates below 5%.

Gov. Edwards’ current executive order keeps the state in Phase 3 until April 28.

Before the news conference, he announced the legislative agenda in 2021 will focus on enhancing pay for teachers and support staff, increased investments in higher education, fighting discrimination in auto insurance rates, closing Louisiana’s gender pay gap, and mandatory reporting for Title IX violations on college campuses.

He added he supports legislative efforts focused on making accommodations for pregnant or postpartum workers, mandating kindergarten, and reforming disciplinary procedures for members of law enforcement, among other things, including an increase in Louisiana’s minimum wage.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gov. Edwards will not address the full legislature at the Capitol for the start of the regular session. Instead, he will give his State of the State from A.W. Mumford Stadium on the campus of Southern University.

The governor commented on the ever-changing situation surrounding LSU and the fallout over its years of mishandling sexual assault allegations on campus.

“The days of protecting an institution are gone,” he said.

He wants members of the legislature and the public to know as much as possible from those involved but the pending litigation could prevent that from happening at this time. He added full transparency with whatever information comes forward is important. He also said no one is beyond reach.

The latest development came on Thursday when Sharon Lewis, LSU’s associate athletic director of football recruiting, filed a $50 million lawsuit in federal court against the LSU Board Of Supervisors; the University’s Law Firm, Taylor Porter; former LSU head football coach Les Miles, and other LSU dignitaries.

Lewis alleges years of harassment and retaliation from higher-ups for attempting to report sexual harassment allegations from students against Miles.

RELATED: Feds launch Title IX compliance probe at LSU

The Louisiana Senate Senate Select Committee on Woman and Children called upon several LSU athletics officials to testify at a hearing Thursday, including current head football coach Ed Orgeron, athletic director Scott Woodard, and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar.

However, LSU blocked any of its current employees from testifying due to the lawsuit filed by Lewis. An attorney for LSU was sent to testify on the university’s behalf.

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