Gov. Edwards: Louisiana scaling back on ventilator orders

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says the state is scaling back on original 14,000 ventilators it had on order.

“We don’t believe that in two weeks that we’re going to be short ventilators,” Edwards said at a Tuesday afternoon briefing, referring to earlier projections that the state would run out of the critical care machines needed to treat a growing number of coronavirus patients by April 8 or 9.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,996 COVID-19 patients in Louisiana hospitals and 519 of them were on ventilators. Edwards said the state has received about 753 ventilators since efforts to procure them got underway a few weeks ago.

RELATED: 1,996 hospitalized for COVID-19 in Louisiana; death toll rises to 582

The 70 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported Tuesday that brought the statewide toll to 582 was double the 35 reported Monday, but Edwards said that those deaths did not all necessarily take place within the past 24 hours. And while there were 90 more people hospitalized for the virus as of Tuesday, there were 44 fewer on ventilators.

“What this reflects, we believe, is improvements in the way we are dispensing medical care in Louisiana and achieving better results with fewer people having to be placed on vents and people being able to come off vents a little earlier than we originally thought would be the case. “

Edwards said the Louisiana Department of Health is trying to support the work physicians and allied healthcare professionals are doing to use their experiences to identify a “Louisiana protocol” for treating COVID-19 patients that can be shared with ICUs in hospitals around the state.

In the meantime, Edwards was cautiously optimistic that the state is turning a corner in the battle to slow the spread of the virus.

“Yesterday I announced that we believe that we are seeing early signs that the mitigation efforts are starting to pay off,” Edwards said. “Now, we still cannot say with absolute confidence that we are flattening the curve, but we are still seeing more evidence that we are moving in that direction.”

However, Edwards said this is no time to let up on social distancing and staying at home.

“We are seeing early signs that the curve is starting to flatten, but this means is we have to continue to do those things that have caused the curve to flatten,” Edwards said.

Louisiana is now number one in the country in per capita testing. There are plans to expand testing in rural areas particularly in Region 3, which include St. Mary Parish and the state’s river parishes.  

Edwards also announced during Tuesday’s briefing that the state has received 400,000 masks from Apple Monday night and Americorps has also committed to donating PPE supplies.

The governor also answered coronavirus-related questions from the public, something he said he planned to continue in future briefings. He encouraged citizens with questions to submit them by email to askjbe@la.gov.

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