BATON ROUGE, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – With Thanksgiving next week and Christmas less than a month after that, Gov. John Bel Edwards warned of “horrendous results” if people engage in typical holiday celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Edwards made the comments on Wednesday during his monthly statewide call-in radio show, “Ask the Governor,” via 89.3 WRKF in Baton Rouge. During the appearance, he implored people to scale back on their holiday customs to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which is showing signs of a third surge in Louisiana.
“If we [celebrate] this year the way we’ve done it in previous years, there will be horrendous results,” Edwards told listeners. “We know that. So we’re asking people to find a way to celebrate… but to do it safely, which means to do it virtually to a large degree.”
Edwards’ comments came as Louisiana, which had been largely spared the surge being felt across the country in recent weeks, sees a sharp uptick in new COVID-19 cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations.
On Wednesday, Louisiana passed 200,000 total confirmed COVID-19, which doesn’t include another 9,000 “probable” cases. Health officials confirmed more than 1,700 new cases on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 202,743 confirmed cases.
The state’s most recent weekly positivity rate report, Nov. 5-11, was 7.50 percent, the highest since Aug. 13-19, according to figures from the Louisiana Department of Health. the statewide positivity rate has steadily risen week-to-week after falling to 4.20 percent Oct. 1-7.
COVID-19 hospitalizations, a key factor in the state’s reopening plan, have increased in 11 of the last 13 updates and, at 929 statewide, are at their highest mark since Aug. 25. Since Oct. 4, they have risen by 411 statewide, including by 237 since Friday.
“That’s a trajectory that quite frankly is unsustainable,” Edwards said of the recent rise in hospitalizations. “We know we have to get back to doing what works.”
Despite expressing confidence that a vaccine could become available before the end of the year, the governor said, “we’re some time away before we start administering those and we’re certainly months away from when enough vaccines are administered to the population at large.”
“Until then, we have to continue to do the things we know work to slow the transmission,” he said.
Louisiana is currently in Phase Three of its reopening plan, which is scheduled to expire Friday, Dec. 4.
Edwards is expected to address the worsening COVID-19 numbers in a 2:30 p.m. press conference Thursday.