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Louisiana virus cases spike as testing expands statewide

Louisiana

Louisiana National Guardsmen with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 62nd Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Support Team gather information from first responders and medical personnel at a COVID-19 mobile testing site at the Alario Center in Westwego, Louisiana, March 21, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases spiked 42% higher Thursday as a backlog of test results poured in and confirmed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ message that the virus’s footprint across the state is much wider than limited testing has been able to document so far.

Nearly 9,200 people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the latest figures released by the Louisiana Department of Health, a jump of more than 2,700 confirmed cases from a day earlier and the largest single-day increase reported so far.

CLICK HERE to see how many cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in NWLA

But the governor emphasized that Thursday’s large increase reflects the growing level of testing statewide — and a break in the logjam of getting those test results from commercial labs and small testing sites to Louisiana authorities for confirmation. More than 5,300 new test results were reported to the state overnight, the state figures showed.

Edwards said many of the tests were done days ago, and he emphasized that most of those infected are self-isolating at home, not requiring a hospital bed. About 18% of the people confirmed to have the virus are hospitalized, according to the state data.

“We want people focused on what they can do about it. Don’t be despondent. Don’t despair. Don’t throw your hands up,” the Democratic governor said in an interview with WWL radio in New Orleans. “We can determine how bad it gets by whether we comply with the social distancing, the ‘stay at home’ order and all the hygiene we’ve been promoting.”

Although the confirmed infection numbers skyrocketed, the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 did not show a similar jump. Louisiana’s death toll from the coronavirus disease grew to 310 in Thursday’s figures, 14% higher than the day before, recording an additional 37 people whose deaths from the virus have been confirmed.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

As the confirmed infections grow daily, Edwards is warning Louisiana residents that they should prepare for their lives to be shaken up by COVID-19 for months or longer, with disruptions to daily routines even after the most restrictive orders are lifted.

“People should go ahead and start coming to terms that it’s going to be a long time getting back to normal,” Edwards said. “And you can look at what’s happened in other countries where they removed some of the restrictions and they immediately saw a spike in the cases and had to put them back into place, too. That could happen here.”

Edwards has closed schools, limited restaurants to takeout and delivery and shuttered businesses deemed nonessential like casinos, gyms, hair salons and bars. He’s said he’ll extend that order through the end of April but has warned it could be extended again.

“The intensity of the mitigation measures and how long they continue will be a result of the facts on the ground. I think that people should start trying to prepare themselves in their minds that it’s going to be a long time before we’re back to normal – even after the most restrictive measures are lifted,” the governor said.

Edwards cited the myriad of unknowns about the coronavirus and the disease caused by it.

Public health experts don’t know if the virus is seasonal and the spread will lessen over the summer, and they don’t know when a proven treatment or vaccine against the virus will be available, the governor noted.

“We should all be preparing ourselves for a period of time that is not going to be pleasant,” Edwards said.

Louisiana’s Department of Health has identified 47 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that it considers a cluster, with at least two apparently related cases of COVID-19.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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