BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging preparedness, not panic, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S. and the state prepares for the arrival of the virus.
The virus has spread to 83,000 people in 60 countries, causing at least 2,800 deaths worldwide. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in Louisiana, but that is expected to change.
“We expect to see cases here in Louisiana, so we want people to be prepared for that,” but “there’s absolutely no need to panic.”
The governor confirmed while speaking at the Press Club of Baton Rouge early Monday afternoon that about two dozen people in Louisiana are in isolation in their homes for a two-week period after traveling from a place affected by the coronavirus.
“None of whom are even symptomatic at this point,” Edwards noted.
Those remaining in isolation were among about 40 people in all who have isolated at home after returning from areas affected by the virus, some of whom have since been released from quarantine after clearing two weeks without developing symptoms.
The governor’s comments came after he convened a Unified Command Group meeting Monday morning and announced the creation of a COVID-19 Task Force. The group will include members of the state’s health, education, family services, justice and police agencies.
Edwards said he plans to meet with state and federal leaders over the coming days and weeks, as the novel strain of the coronavirus continues to spread.
“While we currently do not have any confirmed cases of coronavirus in Louisiana, we do anticipate that we will in the future,” Edwards said Monday. “As a state, Louisiana has been planning for pandemics for 15 years, and we will use this experience to guide how we react and respond to the coronavirus, should it impact our state.”
Gov. Edwards is asking the public to seek information from official sources rather than the rumor mill, promising that the state will disclose presumptive cases promptly.
“When we have a presumptive positive test for coronavirus in Louisiana, we will disclose that and we will do it very quickly.”
Presumptive cases are those that have come back positive for COVID-19 via swab testing through the state’s health department, which still require confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control. That testing capability just became available on the state level and Edwards said capacity for additional testing is expected to ramp up quickly. He also said the state is making sure there are enough lab technicians to process the swab tests.
The Louisiana Department of Health and other agencies have been planning for several weeks on how the state will respond to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the health of the public.
For now, state health officials say you should take commonsense steps to protect yourself from respiratory illness, including washing their hands, covering their mouths when they cough and avoiding going out in public when they are sick.
If you have questions about coronavirus, please contact the general information line at (855) 523-2652 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit https://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/89.