BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/AP) – Gov. John Bel Edwards held his latest briefing Thursday afternoon, hours after the latest numbers on the coronavirus in Louisiana showed the largest single daily increase reported so far.
As of 12 p.m. Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health was reporting 9,150 positive cases and 310 new deaths from the coronavirus in the state. That’s another 2,725 new cases, for a 42-percent spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases overnight.
The increase is likely due to a logjam of roughly 160,000 tests handled private labs, Edwards said.
Gov. Edwards also announced Thursday that he is formally extending his stay-at-home order through April 30, as he said he expected to do earlier in the week.
Louisianans received an emergency alert text from the state reminding them of the current stay-at-home order at 4 p.m. Residents can opt in for state updates by texting LACOVID to 672-83.
Earlier in the day, Edwards warned Louisiana residents that they should be preparing 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.”
Cases have been confirmed in all but three of the 64 parishes, but Edwards once again reassured residents the virus has spread throughout the state.
“I promise you, there is COVID-19 in every one of those parishes and in every community in Louisiana,” he said.
Meanwhile, the governor said state continues to clamor for new ventilators and has renewed its federal requests for new shipments.
Louisiana has seen an uptick in the availability of testing for COVID-19, and Edwards said Thursday’s large increase in virus cases will stem from a “logjam is breaking” in getting test results. He said many of the tests were done days ago but results lagged, and he stressed that most of those infected aren’t hospitalized and are self-isolating at home.
“We want people focused on what they can do about it. Don’t be despondent. Don’t despair. Don’t throw your hands up,” Edwards said. “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.”
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.
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 Democratic governor said.
Edwards cited the myriad of unknowns about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 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, the disease caused by the virus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.