BATON ROUGE, La. (Livingston Parish News) – While other states have recently seen record rises in new cases of the novel coronavirus, that hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.
But that doesn’t mean all is well or back to normal just yet, Gov. John Bel Edwards told radio listeners Wednesday afternoon.
“While we’re doing much better, we still have a ways to go,” Edwards said.
The governor warned citizens about becoming too complacent in the fight against the novel coronavirus during his 51st monthly statewide call-in radio show, “Ask the Governor,” via 89.3 WRKF in Baton Rouge on Wednesday.
Edwards spoke to listeners a few hours after the Louisiana Department of Health reported the most new COVID-19 cases in a single day in more than two months, though the state’s positivity rate continued to stay below the Center for Disease Control’s goal of 10 percent.
However, Edwards expressed concern at the growing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide. Though the state reported a decrease in hospitalizations on Wednesday, that came after three straight days of increases.
The state is now reporting 585 COVID-19 hospitalizations, up by 36 from one week ago, though Edwards said the state is “nowhere near” overwhelming its capacity to deliver healthcare.
“It is true that we’re doing much much better than we were several weeks ago, but quite frankly, we’re worried about hospitalizations,” he said. “We’ve had three days of increases, not with big numbers.. but we haven’t seen that in many weeks.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 928 additional cases from the day before, bringing the statewide total to 48,634. Officials said Wednesday’s surge includes a backlog of 129 cases that stretch back between April 1-9.
Still, the 799 new cases are the most in a single day since April 4, around the end of the peak in Louisiana. And the spread doesn’t appear to be slowing down, as health officials have reported at least 400 new cases in eight of the last nine days.
Since June 9, the state has confirmed 5,022 new cases, or an average of 558 per day, possibly debunking the belief that the warmer summer weather would slow the spread of the disease.
“The heat and humidity [are] not going to stamp it out,” Edwards said. “We do need people to take it very seriously.”
The recent surge in cases comes as the state draws closer to the last week of Phase Two of the state’s plan for reopening the economy and loosening restrictions. Louisiana entered Phase One on May 15, when the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted, before transitioning to Phase Two on June 5.
The earliest the state would enter Phase Three would be Friday, June 26.
The good news, Edwards said, is the state is “making progress in the sheer number of tests” being administered. So far in June, the state lab and commercials labs have conducted 160,000 tests, leaving the state around 40,000 tests shy of its goal of 200,000 with 13 days to go.
“Much of the additional cases we’re detecting is a function of the additional tests,” Edwards said. “But a case is a case. There’s a lot of COVID out there, and it’s spreading around.”
David Gray | The News