BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – In a briefing Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards shared the latest on Louisiana’s response to COVID-19 and introduced a Baton Rouge nurse who shared the powerful story of losing her husband last July to the virus and how it sent her on a mission to vaccinate as many people as possible.
“Working as a psych nurse, I brought the COVID home,” Carla Brown said. “My husband has survived cancer two times, a gunshot wound to the head when he was young, only to succumb to a virus that I brought home. Through my grief and guilt, I was able to reach down deep into my soul, of my faith, and I pledged to David that I would do my best not to let his death be in vain.”
Brown says she started a door-to-door campaign, “knocking on doors and educating as many people as I can can, that this was not a hoax. This virus is real, and it crosses all boundaries.”
She now works as a hospice nurse and is dedicated to ensuring a dignified and peaceful death for those she cares for and their loved ones.
“I was not able to do that with David. Out of all of the things that he went through, because of COVID restrictions, my husband died alone. So now, yes, there is a campaign and I’m pleading with every American. Please get the vaccine. We are there to give you true data. You must understand, this vaccine was made to save us.”
Brown’s campaign has developed into a grassroots effort to register people and then come back and give them the shot, whether they are.
“We will go to your job, your home, wherever you’re at, so there’s no more excuse that the vaccine is not available.”
So far, her efforts have resulted in the vaccination of 994 individuals and she is aiming to reach 2,000 by July 4.
“This is a major holiday. Hear my voice: We’re not out of this pandemic. We still need this to save your inner circle, save your loved one’s lives. I plead with you: Please get the vaccine.”
While the governor did not announce any major new vaccination incentives for Louisiana Thursday, he did discuss some “perks.” In addition to the statewide “Shot for a Shot” campaign launched last week offering free drinks for people who get vaccinated against COVID-19, Edwards announced free entry into all Louisiana State Parks through July 31 for anyone who is vaccinated.
The state parks freebie is part of Louisiana’s “Bring Back the Summer” initiative, Edwards said. He also noted that there are numerous nationwide incentives listed at www.vaccines.gov/incentives.html.
“Stay tuned for more incentives and rewards that will be offered in the near future,” he added.
In his last briefing on May 24, Edwards said he expected some form of incentives would be implemented in the state “pretty soon,” noting that the governors of Ohio and Maine were featured on a White House coronavirus call to talk about the incentives rolled out in their states that have been successful in bringing up vaccination rates.
The governor said at the time that the state had just received clarification that certain portions of the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay for certain vaccine incentives as well, so state leaders were just starting to look at what can be done.
In his latest COVID-19 emergency orders that went into effect on May 28, Gov. Edwards ended most remaining coronavirus restrictions and lifted a statewide requirement that students must wear a mask in the classroom and at school events. Masks still will be required on public transit, in health care facilities, and in prisons.
While the daily number of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have dropped and leveled off across most of the state since the first vaccines arrived in the state in mid-December, variants remain a concern and Edwards has acknowledged the state is not where it needs to be in terms of vaccination rates.
As of Thursday, just 31.7% of Louisiana’s population was fully vaccinated and nearly 36% have received at least one dose, according to Louisiana Department of Health data. Nationwide, 41.5% of the United States population is vaccinated, according to data from the CDC and 50% have received at least one dose.
“While we continue to be encouraged, quite frankly, the uptake is not where we’d like it to be and we certainly want to do better,” Edwards said.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 300 new COVID-19 cases Thursday statewide and ten new deaths. That brings the total number of cases in Louisiana to 472,617 and total deaths to 10,605.
There are 296 people hospitalized across the state and 24 are on ventilators.