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Louisiana reports biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths; hopes to see results from mitigation measures soon

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Louisiana on Tuesday reported its biggest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases and deaths since the new coronavirus first was detected in the state.

State officials say the higher number at least partly reflects a backlog of commercial test results being reported all at once. Within the next few days, any benefit from the mitigation efforts called for in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “stay at home” order should start showing up in the numbers, Edwards said.

The stay-home order expires April 13, though Edwards plans to issue a new proclamation before the end of the week extending the order through April. Mitigation strategies such as avoiding groups of people, staying home as much as possible, and maintaining space between yourself and others are meant to slow the spread of the virus, in hopes of keeping the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed with patients.

“We have yet to see any evidence that we are beginning to flatten the curve,” Edwards said. “Compliance has to improve.”

Though federal officials are sending Louisiana 150 of the 5,000 ventilators Edwards has requested, state officials still are attempting to obtain “thousands” of ventilators from government and commercial sources. States are competing with each other and sometimes with the federal government itself for the limited ventilator supply.

“It’s not a model of efficiency,” said Edwards, who previously had asked federal officials to organize the supply chain. “It’s the method we’ve been told to use.”

The greater New Orleans region still is on pace to run out of ventilators by about April 4 and hospital beds by about April 7. A 1,000-bed center with room to expand at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans for recovering COVID-19 patients will be ready by Sunday, Edwards said, which should free up some hospital beds for sicker patients.

Edwards has authorized adding 1,000 more beds at the Convention Center, which he expects to be ready by April 20, he said.

Louisiana is seeking qualified medical professionals to help with its “medical surge.” Volunteers can sign up at lava.dhh.louisiana.gov, and Delta Air Lines is providing free flights for those coming from out of state, Edwards said.

In its daily update Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 5,237 cases of COVID-19 and 239 deaths, compared to 4,025 cases and 185 deaths on Monday. Tuesday’s report showed the biggest single-day spike in both categories.

Of the 1,355 reported COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 438 were on ventilators, LDH said.

Though cases have been reported from 60 of the state’s 64 parishes, and officials assume there are infected people in every parish, the New Orleans region continues to be one of the hardest-hit areas in the country. Orleans Parish had 1,834 reported cases and 101 deaths, while neighboring Jefferson Parish had 1,193 cases and 57 deaths.

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