JBE Tuesday update: state asks Trump for major disaster declaration

Major Disaster Declaration
Major disaster declaration request was made by governor John Bel Edwards on March 23. The office of the Governor of Louisiana

The gist: Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to President Trump this morning requesting a major disaster declaration for the state. The request comes as positive cases of COVID-29 jumped overnight by 216 for a total of 1,388 cases within the state. The fast-moving illness also claimed 12 more lives overnight for a total of 46 for Louisiana. 

What does this mean: A major disaster declaration opens up more ways for the state to respond to the ongoing crisis. Edwards said once the president signs the proclamation, Louisiana will have access to more resources such as PPE, ventilators and hospital beds. The state is looking to expand hospital beds into hotels if needed, using those locations as makeshift halfway houses for the sick who need treatment but not a ventilator. 

These are extraordinary times. Edwards stressed again that COVID-19 isn’t your average hurricane disaster. The state won’t be seeing a cavalry riding in from other states to help us. We’re on our own here. 

Testing: Louisiana has conducted 8,603 COVID-19 tests; that’s up from around 6,000 yesterday. Lab capacity has also increased to accommodate the massive amount of tests coming in daily. Increased testing means increased positive numbers; across the state, 1,252 citizens lie in hospital beds with symptoms, 271 of them tested positive for COVID-19. As for the other 981, the government expects 60% will test positive. Ninety-four patients are on ventilators. 

Fat Tuesday: Though by now there’s little way to track how the virus came to set up shop within NOLA’s borders, the governor has a theory. 

“The first confirmed case, the first person who tested positive, it was 13 days past Fat Tuesday, and it was in New Orleans,” Edwards said. 

More than 1 million tourists converged on New Orleans to catch parades and beads; it’s not hard to see how citizens caught something else. Edwards joked that one day some student will get his doctorate finding out the source, but for now, it remains a mystery. 

Money talks: “Until we tackle the medical challenges, it’s hard to see the economy coming back,” Edwards said. As much as Louisiana relies on oil and tourism, the state just doesn’t look very appealing right now to those who would want to visit. Restrictive measures tentatively end in early April, but Edwards said those measures will see extension if needed. 

How to help: Edwards asked that citizens donate blood if possible. The state’s stores remain critically low. Food banks have also seen a surge of requests and need donations. Edwards said just $1 can provide four meals at a food bank for those in need, and you can donate dollars right from your living room. 

Couch science: The science says mitigation methods work, but we still remain within the holding period to see how well this will work. Edwards commended everyone who’s working from the comfort of their desks. If you’re still in line for unemployment, keep trying, he says. Peak hours start at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m., but office hours are until 7 p.m. 

“The work I’m asking you to do is stay at home,” Edwards ended the conference saying. We’ll see within the next two weeks if that plea worked.