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(The Center Square) – The federal government is sending Louisiana two field hospitals and 60 people to staff them to help care for the state’s COVID-19 patients, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
State officials also plan to set up a temporary 1,100-bed medical facility at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans as part of the “medical surge” to meet the rising demand.
Edwards has requested 5,000 ventilators from the federal strategic reserve but hasn’t gotten an answer yet. On Thursday, he issued a call for qualified volunteers of “all medical backgrounds” to help with the effort, directing them to covid-19lavolunteers.org for more information.
Louisiana is tied with New Jersey for second-most COVID-19 cases per capita, Edwards said.
“The curve [of increasing cases] that we are on is not promising,” he said. “Everyone is at risk.”
As of Thursday’s mid-day update, Louisiana had 2,305 reported COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths, including a 17-year-old who is by far the youngest person in the state to die from the illness so far. Officials said they didn’t yet know if the patient had any underlying health conditions that made them more vulnerable to the disease.
Though residents of 53 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have tested positive, Orleans and neighboring Jefferson are leading the way with 1,455 cases and 58 deaths combined. The greater New Orleans region could run out of ventilators by April 2 and run out of bed space by April 9, Edwards said.
Edwards repeated his call for residents statewide to respect his “stay at home” order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and expressed frustration at those who are not complying but did not announce any new enforcement efforts.
“We have 4.7 million people,” he said. “We’re not going to enforce our way through this. People need to comply.”
There are many unknowns when it comes to the new coronavirus, Edwards said, but mitigation efforts such as avoiding crowds, practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible have been proven effective to reduce its spread.