BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that there are some concerning trends in the data the state is tracking on the spread of COVID-19.
Edwards addressed some of those trends during his briefing after the Louisiana Department of Health announced that it would not be updating the state’s online COVID-19 dashboard while it reviews all of the data.
The delay in Thursday’s update comes one day after the state reported the largest single-day increase in cases since the virus first spiked in early April.
“The Department of Health wanted to review the data to make sure it was accurate,” Edwards said, adding that they are “trying to make sure there are no duplicative or non-Louisiana residents whose tests may have been done in Louisiana and may have been included in our dashboard, so that we get the right results on the dashboard.”
Still, the governor was able to share insights into some of the data they have been seeing thus far.
“We’ve been seeing some things that are concerning, so want to disclose that as soon as possible.”
That includes the fact that the spread does not appear to be limited to nursing homes or other congregant settings.
“If you take out all the backlogged cases, since June 10th, we’ve added more than 4,200 new COVID-19 cases across the state. That’s in seven days. Most of these new cases did not come from nursing homes or other congregant settings, and so what that means is they were the result of community spread.
I point this out because there’s a lot of talk within our state and nationally about a second wave coming in the fall. I guess that might happen but right now, today, we need to know we are still very much in the first wave.
Coronavirus hasn’t left, it is still very much here with us and it is present in every community across the state of Louisiana. And the reality is, based on these trends that we’re seeing, every Louisianan needs to do a real gut-check on whether he or she has been slacking off when it comes to taking the proper precautions.”
Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Alex Billioux shared some more specific data on recent trends around the state by region, including what he called a “very alarming rise in new cases” in the Region 4 area around Acadiana, along with an uptick in hospitalizations.
Billioux said Region 5 in Southwest Louisiana has also shown a steep incline in cases and hospitalizations, and Region 6 in Central Louisiana showing a longer increase over time but noting that if the trend continues there, there will be an increase overall in cases and hospitalizations.
It is more “heartening news” for Region 7 in Northwest Louisiana, according to Billioux, who said the area is still seeing a slow decline in cases despite the increase in testing there and a slow decline in hospitalizations. Billioux noted a similar decline in new cases in the Region 8 area of Monroe.
Still, both Billioux and Edwards were clear about the remaining areas of concern and about the need for the public and businesses to stay the course in taking all recommended measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“The numbers that we’ve been seeing over the last several days prove that we just can’t afford to become complacent,” Edwards said.
Edwards said Thursday’s data is expected to be available on Friday, along with that day’s numbers.
The governor was able to report that there have been seven additional deaths statewide since Wednesday because that data comes from a different source. The number of COVID-19 deaths statewide now totals 2,957.
Edwards also said that the Louisiana Department of Health has conducted 535 on-site or virtual Infection Control and Response (ICAR) assessments across the state and that 82 percent of all nursing home residents and 68 percent of all nursing home staff had been tested. Testing is done weekly until results for all residents and staff come back negative for two weeks and staff will continue to be tested weekly to ensure they are not bringing the virus into the facilities.
Gov. Edwards was also asked Thursday about the move by some local governments around the country to make wearing face masks in public mandatory.
“At the end of the day, those states that went there quickly reversed course,” Edwards said. “It’s just not something you can enforce and I think you end up doing more harm than good by making it mandatory but we are trying to appeal to people and their sense of compassion, and also to the facts of this disease and how easily it spreads and how serious it is in terms of the consequences, especially the most vulnerable. And hopefully, they will understand. Nobody wants to go backwards and start imposing more restrictions.”
Edwards noted that “the case is so much stronger today” for wearing masks since “we now know the majority of transmission happens because of airborne particles, aerosol,” because people are speaking, sneezing, coughing, and breathing.
He also noted that many lawmakers in the state capitol are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
“There are a lot of people right here in this building who are not setting a very good example.”