BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press briefing about Louisiana's response to COVID-19 on Friday, May 8.
During the briefing, Edwards outlined the state's plan to increase its testing capacity and hiring more contact tracers.
Edwards said that the state's goal is to have 200,000 COVID-19 test completed by the state by the end of May expand testing capacity for state labs.
Edwards said that the state currently has 70 contact tracers and will now expand to 250. Edwards said the Louisiana Workforce Commission will soon be hiring and expects to have up to 700 in the next month.
Edwards said the state will get as many contact tracers as is needed.
“Contact tracing is key part of our strategy for moving the state forward, as it will allow us to determine who has been exposed and is at the highest risk for becoming sick, get them tested and keep them isolated from others,” Edwards said.
Edwards said that LDH has signed a contract with Accenture and Salesforce to manage Louisiana’s contact tracing process, using two Louisiana-based call centers with agents based entirely in Louisiana.
He added that the training for these contact tracers will be managed by LSU’s Stephenson Disaster Management Institute.
While hiring will be statewide, he said, the initial locations for the call centers are based in the Lafayette and New Orleans areas.
Louisiana Department of Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Alex Billioux said that both contact tracing and increase testing is a critical role in managing the virus.
Billioux said that contact tracing will become more prevalent in moving into the phases of reopening the state and economy down the road to prevent the spread of the virus.
Billioux said that contact tracers will identify all individuals who may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 or those who could develop COVID-19.
They will also identify potentially infected individuals who have had close contact with household members, intimate partners and those who may have provided a service in their home, as well as anyone who has been in close contact with a potentially infected individual for at least 15 minutes.
According to Edwards, contact tracers must have graduated high school, feel comfortable having a telephone conversation with someone and also entering data. They must be compassionate, able to protect and honor patient privacy, and complete a very detailed training session. To apply, email ContactTracing@La.gov.
The governor said the first group of 250 contact tracers will begin training next week with services available to the state by May 15.
Edwards said that compliance for contact tracing for Louisianans will be up to them.
"It’s an extension of just being a good neighbor, I think," said Edwards. "We all have an obligation just to our fellow man, and ladies, to do what is reasonable under the circumstances to protect one another."
Edwards also addressed the issue over concerns that the contact tracing program may infringe on individual rights.
"I understand that there are people out there who say, ‘Well, I’ve got a liberty interest.’ And they do," said Edwards. "Some people get wrapped around the axle on what they have a right to do. I’m going to ask people to consider what is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is be a good neighbor. And I suspect that the overwhelming majority of Louisianans are going to do just that."
As of Friday, May 8, there are 30,855 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Louisiana, with around 20,000 people presumed recovered. Since March, 2,154 Louisianans have died of the illness.
On Wednesday, Edwards said state officials will spend this weekend reviewing state COVID-19 data to decide what the state's next steps will be. Edwards said he will make an announcement on possibly reopening the state and lifting restrictions on the economy on Monday, May 11.
Based on the White House re-opening protocol, the state's numbers must show 14 days of sustained improvement in order to qualify for Phase I of economic re-opening. Edwards said he could not say if we will move to Phase I on May 15.
You can watch Friday's full briefing below.
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