By ALAN SMASON
With yesterday’s declaration of Louisiana as a “Coronavirus Disaster Area,” the nation’s attention is finally being drawn to Louisiana as numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the state. As of today, March 26, Louisiana has 2,305 confirmed cases or 510 new cases, which according to Governor John Bel Edwards, ties Louisiana with the more populous state of New Jersey in number of cases per capita.
The statewide death toll also increased by 18 today and now stands at 83.
Locally, the grim statistics continue to tick upward. Orleans Parish, which leads all other counties in the nation per capita, also has the largest number of confirmed cases (997) and 46 deaths. Nearby Jefferson Parish, which had no deaths a little over a week ago, now has 12 deaths associated with its 458 confirmed cases.
Speaking at his daily news conference in Baton Rouge today, Edwards said that 53 of the state’s 64 parishes have officially reported cases, but he reiterated his belief that every parish is affected.
The governor said that the latest figures continue to reflect both the rampant spread of the virulent coronavirus contagion, but also indicates more accurate testing is being conducted throughout the state.
Although older adults have been seen to be more at-risk for COVID-19, Edwards announced that among the latest victims being reported from New Orleans was a 17-year-old victim. No word was given as to whether underlying health matters were contributory in that death, but Edwards indicated an autopsy is being conducted by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s office.
“If we don’t flatten the curve, as I said yesterday, we could be out of ventilators in Region 1 – New Orleans – by as early as April,” Edwards implored. He said that demand for hospital beds in New Orleans could outpace availability by April 7.
Edwards also announced that additional support from the Louisiana National Guard was deeply appreciated and that he has begun to designated the Ernest Morial Convention Center as a makeshift hospital facility that will have as many as 1,000 additional beds on hand should existing facilities be overrun.
Federal Emergencey Management Act (FEMA) funding will begin to be doled out to the state in advance of the expected peak of the disease and a rapid response team from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is mobilizing to be on site in Louisiana very soon, the governor reported.
A rare unanimous $2 trillion recovery package passed Congress late last night, which could begin to deliver relief to affected families laid off or business owners who have been forced to shut down in several more weeks.