BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards says contact tracers have been successful in reaching many who are COVID-positive and those they’ve come into contact with, but many are either missing the calls or not answering the unfamiliar number.
The governor said in his Wednesday afternoon briefing that contact tracers have reached out to 97 percent of those who have tested positive and 95 percent of those identified as having come into close contact with them. He said and more than half of them have answered, but the Louisiana Department of Health is continuing to try to reach those who have not responded.
“LDH is making a concerted effort to get in touch with those who are positive and with those who may have been exposed to them. And in many cases, people are simply missing the call, or I suspect they don’t recognize the number and they just choose not to answer. As a reminder, their number is 1-877-766-2130. If it comes up on your phone, please answer, and if you show that number as being a missed call, all you have to do is call it back, and we’re asking people to do that.
Meanwhile, Edwards said that the state is not seeing a spike in cases overall, but that there are a few regions that continue to cause concern, most notably Region 8 in the Monroe area. Regions 5 in the Lake Charles/Southwest area of the state and 6 in the Alexandria/CENLA are also seeing increases in cases and hospitalizations.
The State Department of Health and Hospitals is monitoring data in an effort to determine whether community spread is a factor in the increase in cases in those areas, but Edwards noted that increased testing is also contributing to higher reports of COVID-19 cases in portions of the state.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Louisiana rose to 44,030 on Wednesday, while the number of people reported to have died from the virus rose to 2,855. Edwards noted that the positivity rate from the 6,452 test results reported Wednesday was 6.5 percent.
“While the state is obviously doing much much better and the percentage of positivity overall is decreasing, sometimes if you just look at the numbers from a high altitude, it obscures what’s going on in parts of the state.”
“It’s extremely important to note that we just can’t get complacent and I think that this is perhaps just part of what may come natural to some people as you ease restrictions, they say, ‘Well, the problem must be gone.’ No. If the problem was gone, then we wouldn’t ease restrictions, we would remove restrictions. Just like the rest of the country, we still have COVID-19 in every single community across the state of Louisiana”
Edwards went on to say that he has not moved to mandate wearing masks only because he does not believe the state could enforce it, but that people should be doing it because it’s the right thing to do to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“If we let our guard down,” warned Edwards, “we can easily see those cases start to rise, and then we would have to entertain additional measures and nobody wants that to happen.”
Two weeks into Phase 2 in Louisiana, Edwards says the LDH is “watching case counts everywhere in the state, trying to figure out what those cases mean, does it suggest community spread or does it not? Are they actually producing more people going to the hospital, what’s the acuity level of the people in the hospital, and so forth. And there’s a lot of information that we are paying close attention to to inform our actions.”
Also during Wednesday’s briefing, the governor announced a new statewide ”Get Back to Work” survey tool to help gauge an individual’s vulnerability to contracting the virus and ways to prevent it.
Edwards shared a reminder that the deadline for families to apply for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program has been extended one week, from June 8 to June 15. He also noted that the cards are arriving in plain white envelopes with an Austin, Texas return address, and warned recipients not to throw them away.
He said as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 250,000 parents had submitted applications for more than 430,000 students, and that parents are receiving their first batch of benefits this week.
Those that wish to apply for P-EBT can do so at www.louisianabelieves.com.