The Latest on the Coronavirus Outbreak

Gov. Edwards “not prepared to say that it’s too early to open” schools

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – During his coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. Edwards said it is too soon to say whether schools are reopening too early as the coronavirus continues to spread across the state.

“If you look at the ways that schools have reopened, consistent with CDC guidelines, with a large number of their students participating virtually, and others with a hybrid approach so that they are physically present sometimes and virtually present at other times, to allow the school to actually have the space in order to spread them out on the bus and in the classroom, and all of the precautions being taken, including not just the physical distancing, but the mask-wearing, the hygiene and so forth, I am not prepared to say that it’s too early to open,” said Edwards. “But I will tell you we are gonna be watching very, very closely.”

Edwards added that the state will remain prepared to make adjustments as needed. But he also pointed out other reasons besides education that it is important to get students back into the classroom, including nutrition, social and emotional wellness, and reporting of suspected abuse.

When Edwards was asked whether college football should or will be played, the governor said he is still “not prepared to go there today.” The question came in light of the Big Ten announcing the cancelation of the fall season and the expectation that other conferences may follow their lead.

As of midday Tuesday, Louisiana had added another 1,165 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26 more deaths, bringing the cumulative number of cases statewide to 133,125 and total deaths to 4,195.

Hospitalizations are declining, with 262 fewer than two weeks ago, but the governor said 15 hospitals still have full ICUs and cannot take more patients.

“Progress has not been dramatic, but it has been steady, said Edwards. “We owe that to better adherence to mitigation measures. ” While the trends have been going in a better direction over the past couple of weeks, “we still have some work to do. We all have a role to play.”

The governor once again pleaded with those “who have yet to do their part” to mask up and practice social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus and allow the state’s health care system to care for those in need.

“It really is that simple. And if you think it doesn’t work, explain to me why two weeks after the mask mandate went into place, we started seeing our numbers improve. They continue to improve. And if we want them to continue to improve, as I hope we all do, then we should all buy into these mitigation measures and to the fact that, while it’s unpleasant and we hate to interrupt people’s livelihoods, that closing bars is saving people’s lives.”

A federal judge is set to hear a lawsuit this week from Houma bar owners seeking to overturn the governor’s executive emergency orders. A state judge already sided with Edwards in a similar legal action brought by some south Louisiana business owners last week, upholding the orders.

Meanwhile, the governor offered a pointed reminder for those who might be under the impression they can “test out” of quarantine.

“If you are in quarantine because you’ve been a close contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19, you cannot test yourself out of quarantine by testing negative. You can test, but if you’re negative, you still have to wait that full 14 days in order to make sure that you don’t become infected – and not only infected, but infectious, and start getting around other individuals.”

With 226,321 tests already completed in the month of August, the state is already ahead of its monthly goal of 200,000. Edwards said turnaround times for results are getting better for in-state labs and some out-of-state labs are also getting them back more quickly. That, Edwards said, is a good thing as it will allow contact tracers to more quickly reach out to those who are infected so that they can take measures to self-quarantine and warn others that may have been exposed.

Dr. Alex Billioux, Assistant Secretary of Health for the LDH Office of Public Health also spoke at the briefing about the increasing incidence of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) across the state. As of August 10, the number of confirmed MIS-C cases in Louisiana has risen to 44 and on Monday, the LDH reported a fourth death related to the illness.

The CDC has reports of more than 570 cases among children nationwide with the syndrome.

MIS-C is a serious health condition in young people less than 21 years of age where different body organs can become inflamed and fail. These include the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

“This virus seems to also really trigger very strong immune responses, and those immune responses are something that’s very prominent, especially in the people, adults or children, that are ending up in the intensive care units and on ventilators.”

Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes or feeling extra tired. The specific cause of MIS-C is not yet understood, but it is known to occur in some children and teenagers who have contracted COVID-19 or been exposed to another individual with COVID-19.

And Billioux says there is no known specific treatment at this point to prevent or treat the disease.

“Largely, what we do is support children through what is a rare, but pretty significant abnormality.”

With 11,382 confirmed COVID-19 cases among children across the state, Louisiana is currently fourth in the nation in pediatric cases of the coronavirus, which means more cases of MIS-C are likely.

“And that makes us a little bit more concerned, certainly at the Department of Health and the Office of Public Health, about MISC-C,” said Billioux. “We are trying to raise more awareness amongst providers, because we do think that supportive care, giving fluids, helping blood pressure stay up in these children is helpful. But that means that healthcare providers across the state have to be really vigilant and have this in the back of their heads when they’re seeing somebody with an otherwise unidentifiable, undiagnosable condition that fits this pattern. We want to make sure that they’re giving the best care.”

Billioux also explained that the state’s case and testing data appeared far lower than usual on Monday because of the timing of when the state was pulling the labs’ results between Sunday and Monday and how many labs were reported either day.

“The number of labs that were reported from yesterday was from less than a 24-hour period. Going forward, that should be unlikely to be the case. We’re setting clear times when we’re pulling in labs. But there was no anomaly in which labs could report. We did note that many labs are now reporting at a slightly different time of day. And so, the combination of pulling labs a little bit later on Sunday and then having other labs start to report a little bit earlier in the day seems have led to more labs being classified as Sunday than Monday.”

Billioux went on to note that there were no rejected cases or tests that were not reported and that the state lists cases by the date the specimens were collected, so the timing of the cases being updated on the dashboard will not affect the state’s epidemic curve, also known as the epi curve.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in his briefing Tuesday that he learned in a call with the White House Monday that “nobody,” including the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Treasury, believes the executive actions taken by the Pres. Trump on Saturday are a “realistic and complete subsitute” for action by Congress on COVID-19 relief and unemployment assistance, “and in fact, they said that expressly. Their first option is still legislation.”

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