Increased testing shows ballooning virus cases in Louisiana

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FILE – In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in New York’s Long Island. Wide scale testing is a critical part of tracking and containing infectious diseases. But the U.S. effort has been plagued by a series of missteps, including accuracy problems with the test kits the CDC sent to other labs and bureaucratic hurdles that slowed the entrance of large, private sector labs. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana scrambled to ready makeshift hospitals and track down ventilators as the steady uptick of coronavirus cases continued Wednesday in a state that had already been one of the most infected per capita.

Nearly 1,800 people in the state were confirmed to have the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, according to figures from Louisiana’s health department, an increase of 400 from the previous day. Sixty-five Louisiana residents have died, only two weeks after the state’s first positive test, the data shows. The disease has been confirmed in three-quarters of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

President Donald Trump granted a federal disaster declaration for Louisiana on Tuesday night, acknowledging the scale of Louisiana’s outbreak and unlocking millions of dollars in federal aid for the state’s response. The designation, which had been sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards, adds Louisiana to a list that includes California, Washington and New York to get reimbursement for certain expenses dating back to Jan. 20 and other forms of assistance.

Louisiana has the third-highest rate of confirmed virus cases per capita, Edwards said. He warned that the state could run out of ventilators for patients in the New Orleans area within the first week of April.

“This virus has spread across the state of Louisiana. This is real. And our state and everyone in it needs to take it very seriously,” the Democratic governor said Wednesday. “The trajectory of our case growth continues to be very alarming. We have not begun to flatten the curve yet.”

Edwards issued a statewide “stay at home” order for most of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents that began Monday evening. He said he was hopeful that compliance with the restrictions would start to shrink daily spikes in new virus cases, particularly those that require hospitalization.

In New Orleans, doctors and hospital officials said they were coping with an increased number of patients needing intensive care and working to avoid the possible overwhelming of their systems. Dr. John Schieffelin, an assistant professor at Tulane’s medical school who also practices in the LCMC hospital system in New Orleans, said hospitals are stressed, but coping so far.

“If the numbers keep on doubling every few days, then in a couple of weeks we’ll really have a problem again,” Schieffelin said.

By: MELINDA DESLATTE and KEVIN McGILL Associated Press

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