Edwards warns of long-term disruption as virus cases spike

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As Louisiana expects another spike in coronavirus cases, Gov. John Bel Edwards is warning his state’s residents that they should be preparing for their lives to be shaken up by COVID-19 for months or longer, with disruptions to daily routines even after the most restrictive orders are lifted.

“People should go ahead and start coming to terms that it’s going to be a long time getting back to normal,” Edwards said. “And you can look at what’s happened in other countries where they removed some of the restrictions and they immediately saw a spike in the cases and had to put them back into place, too. That could happen here.”

Edwards warned that the updated numbers released latest Thursday were going to show a “huge spike” in confirmed cases, the largest single-day increase reported so far.

“The numbers today are going to be jarring,” Edwards said Thursday on the WWL radio station in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Department of Health has reported that at least 273 state residents have died from the virus and more than 6,400 cases have been confirmed. The agency planned a midday update to those figures Thursday.

Louisiana has seen an uptick in the availability of testing for COVID-19, and Edwards said Thursday’s large increase in virus cases will stem from a “logjam is breaking” in getting test results. He said many of the tests were done days ago but results lagged, and he stressed that most of those infected aren’t hospitalized and are self-isolating at home.

“We want people focused on what they can do about it. Don’t be despondent. Don’t despair. Don’t throw your hands up,” Edwards said. “We can determine how bad it gets by whether we comply with the social distancing, the ‘stay at home’ order and all the hygiene we’ve been promoting.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

Edwards has closed schools, limited restaurants to takeout and delivery and shuttered businesses deemed nonessential like casinos, gyms, hair salons and bars. He’s said he’ll extend that order through the end of April, but has warned it could be extended again.

“The intensity of the mitigation measures and how long they continue will be a result of the facts on the ground. I think that people should start trying to prepare themselves in their minds that it’s going to be a long time before we’re back to normal – even after the most restrictive measures are lifted,” the Democratic governor said.

Edwards cited the myriad of unknowns about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease caused by it.

Public health experts don’t know if the virus is seasonal and the spread will lessen over the summer, and they don’t know when a proven treatment or vaccine against the virus will be available, the governor noted.

“We should all be preparing ourselves for a period of time that is not going to be pleasant,” Edwards said.

Louisiana’s Department of Health has identified 47 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that it considers a cluster, with at least two apparently related cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

By: MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press

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