On Wednesday, Governor Edwards sat down as part of a town hall discussion on COVID-19 to answer questions from the public.
Around 200 questions were submitted by readers of The Advocate for the town hall meeting. 14 questions were chosen out of all 200. The town hall lasted around 30 minutes.
See the full video below:
The first question was on Unemployment benefits for the state.
On September 6, Edwards says federal unemployment benefits will end.
In Louisiana, Governor Edwards says that a bill passed in the legislature has provided a permanent increase in benefits which ended in the state on July 31. Edwards signed the bill into law in a compromise with Republican legislators.
Edwards says he is encouraging people to reconnect with the workforce and apply for federal assistance if they need.
On football, Edwards says that it is too early to know how the entire season will play out. Currently there is a mask mandate in place for indoor settings only.
He says there is no push, right now, to extend a mask mandate to outdoor settings.
Vaccination required for ALL state employees?
Vaccination mandates are not under consideration for state workers until the FDA approves one of the COVID vaccines. Edwards says that could now be as early as Labor Day, based on current reporting.
Once licensure is granted, he says it will be added to the list of approved vaccines, just like other vaccinations for illnesses.
Federal mandates for government employees are under consideration. So far, federal workers will be required to sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more.
Politicians, including Congressman Clay Higgins have introduced bills to make mandating vaccines to employees illegal. Read his bill here
Immigration and the sudden surge of COVID?
Edwards says that the surge is due to the state not taking advantage of the time we had to get the virus under control by means of vaccination. He also says that weather most likely has played a big part in the surge.
The surge is being seen in all 50 states but seen the worst here in Louisiana. The case rate is number one in the country.
Edwards says that instances of immigrants being dropped off in Louisiana cities is known, and he has not approved of the ways it has happened, but it is not causing the surge in COVID.
LSU not mandating COVID vaccine
On this topic, Edwards says that a mandate on vaccination will wait until full licensure. Once that happens, the vaccine can be added to the list of vaccines needed by students at schools and universities.
When asked about thoughts on LSU's legal advice over the years, Edwards says that he does have concerns about legal advice that LSU has received in the past on decisions. In relation to any COVID mandates, he does not see any problems with legal advice.
All of higher education is approaching the vaccine from the angle of waiting for licensure. Edwards is hopeful for that day.
The State Phases - Will we go back?
Edwards say he has no intention of pushing back to earlier phases.
"The least onerous way to help is to reinstate the mask mandate," he said. No businesses are limited and no lock downs are in place.
"We are not looking to have any additional restrictions and I hope we won't have to."
Edwards says that masking will curve the transmission and the percent positivity in the state. He mentioned the capacity at hospitals and the staffing issues that is putting a strain on care to non-covid patients
Jury Duty - Forced to be around unvaccinated people
No information on changes to the judicial branch was given. Edwards advises that those with questions, talk with courts to find the answer.
The Judicial branch is a separate branch of government and some decisions are not made in connection with Edwards orders.
Let the Disease run its course?
"How long will that take?" Edwards answered. "There is 'no running its course.' There are people with this disease for the third time."
Edwards says the Delta variant is causing more problems that previous variants, with more people in hospitals and deaths.
He cautioned that letting the disease "run its course" would be a very bad approach.
Delaying School Start Date
CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students can be at school with proper mitigation. Vaccination for those eligible and masks for those attending.
Edwards says that it has been seen that children do better while in school as apposed to virtual learning or pushing back start dates. Not having children in schools put stresses on parents who can't leave their children at home.
Health workers vaccine mandate
Edwards says that he supports what the private companies have done to require vaccinations for their employees. He believes that they have given employees enough time to comply with the change in policy and believes that licensure for the vaccine will coincide with the time for employees to comply.
"We are gratified by the increased intake of the vaccine rate being seen in the state. We don't have to have everyone vaccinated to reach herd immunity but we are no where near that area."
Vaccination rate for older individuals is high and Edwards says it shows in the low rate of COVID hospitalizations for those individuals.
Proof of vaccination to enter events, etc
Vaccine passports are "not being entertained" in Louisiana. There is simply a push to get vaccinated and if a person comes in contact with someone who is positive with COVID, to get tested, isolate, mask and remain socially distant.
Enforcement of Masking
The enforcement will be similar to the first mask mandate.
Guidance has been given out to business owners and the state will respond to complaints and fines may be issued. Edwards said that they are asking for everyone to comply but no other enforcement is being put forward.
For business owners, go to https://opensafely.la.gov/ for details.
Politicians seeing what is going on in Hospitals
Edwards was asked if he thinks politicians who believe the virus is a political tool should spend some time in COIVD wards, seeing those who are sick.
The Governor says it could be a good idea for them to visit hospitals.
"The virus doesn't give a damn. It escapes me how people are so dismissive to science."
Edwards says that he believes that people are taking the virus seriously and opening their mind to the severity.
Edwards meets with medical directors from hospitals and also Dr. Joe Kanter with LDH and the White House task force on COVID regularly.
Any Politicians who he would order to wear a mask
This question was at the end and appeared to be a joke question. Edwards responded saying that some politicians he believes should "close their mouths and open their minds" and do things that are promoting public health. He declined to name names.
Edwards appealed to everyone regardless of what their views to re-evaluate their decision and get vaccinated.
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