Is Louisiana flattening the coronavirus curve?

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards cautiously delivered some good news to the state’s residents on Monday. The state just may be flattening the coronavirus curve now.

If true, this is very good news. Louisiana has one of the highest rates of death from the virus in the country. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette economist Gary Wagner compiled a list of the top 20 counties or parishes nationwide for deaths per capita. Half of the top 20 are in Louisiana. For reference, only a few days ago, Wagner listed only 6 Louisiana parishes on the list.

Two weeks ago, Edwards instituted a statewide stay at home order. Louisiana has 4.6 million residents. His original fear of not being able to meet the potential need for ventilators and hospital beds by this week in the New Orleans area has eased. The area is not on track to run out, as of now and that is the first measurable indicator that the curve is flattening. Edwards doesn’t want anyone to be overconfident, though until more data is collected over the next several days. Above all else, he cautioned residents to continue doing what they are doing – sheltering in place, practicing social distancing.

The governor cautioned that officials still need several days of data to confirm their hopes that they are seeing steep restrictions on face-to-face contact “bear real results.” And he warned residents not to let up on complying with those measures.

“We are hopeful we’re starting to see the beginning of flattening the curve,” Edwards said, taking his most optimistic tone yet since the coronavirus began ripping through New Orleans and elsewhere. “We have to keep doing everything we’ve been doing to have the best possible outcome.”

The early projections by Edwards’ administration showed a risk of running out of ventilators and hospital beds by the first two weeks of April. He moved to quickly make available facilities for patients and to purchase necessary equipment. So far, the hospitals have fewer patients that require ventilators than originally projected and these patients are spending less time on the ventilators. New hospital admissions have fallen. The death rate is coming more in line with other states.

Louisiana became a hot spot for the coronavirus pandemic after Mardi Gras, which brought over 1.5 million revelers together in the New Orleans area. Added to that were St. Patrick’s Day celebrations which also were not canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. New Orleans Mayor La Toya Cantrell has shifted the blame off on President Trump and his administration for her slow reaction in shutting down the city. She claims no one told her the severity of the pandemic and the dangers it held for the city. Unfortunately, New Orleans has a history of elected officials failing to act in a timely manner during times of crisis. The results are frequently disastrous.

The latest data from the Louisiana Department of Health shows African Americans comprising 70% of the deaths in Louisiana. Compared to other states, Louisiana has a relatively high rate of testing. The state’s stay at home order will continue to April 30 and the Trump administration has advised Edwards to stick with the social distancing measures. It looks like Edwards over-requested on his ventilator order to the federal government’s stockpile. He asked for 7,000 and received 350 from that source.

Edwards said the state has secured 753 ventilators in recent weeks, and has distributed all but 200 of them. Of those, 350 came from the federal stockpile, where Edwards has asked for 7,000.

And after officials rapidly executed a contract and began construction on a temporary hospital facility at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, patients have begun moving into the facility, which will be able to house 2,000. Those patients will come directly from hospitals after being deemed well enough to leave intensive care to free up hospital beds.

That’s just human nature, right? Panic leads to over-compensation, which the large request of ventilators looks to have been. That’s good news – he hasn’t needed a larger number of ventilators. There are still 200 ventilators available for distribution with the number of patients entering the hospital going down. This lines up with the Trump administration’s reassurances that the federal stockpile supplies are available as needed.

We may be approaching a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment for Louisiana. Edwards thanked President Trump for some much-needed assistance in both equipment and testing.

Edwards thanked President Donald Trump for 200 more ventilators he sent to Louisiana from the national stockpile this weekend, and for two federal testing sites in New Orleans, which helped give state health officials a lot of data they needed.

The medical monitoring station in the Convention Center opened today, with about 30 patients being treated there. The site is for patients who no longer need hospitalization but need more care than they would get if they go home.

It’s not time for Louisiana to get back to normal yet but there is hope that the trend is a good one now.

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