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Louisiana to ramp up COVID-19 testing to meet goals for reopening

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Posted at 1:08 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 17:49:16-04

BATON ROUGE - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards held a media briefing about Louisiana's response to COVID-19.

As of Friday, May 29, there were 38,802 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Louisiana, with 2,661 deaths. The Louisiana Department of Health reported that case and testing data would not be updated on Friday due to a "network technical issue." Once resolved, LDH says they will update at the next noon update. To see the latest from LDH, click here.

Despite the lack of new state COVID-19 numbers, there were some numbers available to report which Edwards says are trending in the right direction.

Hospitalizations have gone down to 714 and there are 93 people on ventilators which was last seen on March 23 in the state, . The deaths count is up by 26 deaths.

Edwards says that COVID is still here in the state . "We can take some satisfaction with the progress the state has made but there are still a ways to go," he said.

To combat COVID-19, Edwards says the state will be continuing to increase testing across the state. The governor said that this testing will be important going forward as we open up the state.

"We want to do it safely," Edwards said.

As of May 28, 347,647 tests have been reported to the State with an overall 11.1% positivity rate, which means 11.1% of total tests reported actually turned out positive for COVID-19. The federal goal is less than 10% positivity. This month 186,776 tests have been completed with the expectation that the 200,000 tests goal for the month of May will be met in the coming days.

The state’s comprehensive plan includes four goals for the months of May and June:

  • Increase baseline testing by 100,000 tests by the end of May
  • Achieve monthly statewide testing at 4% per capita
  • Achieve 2% per capita tested in all parishes by the end of May
  • Achieve positivity of 10% or less as a state and regionally

LDH says that Louisiana’s testing plan features a multipronged approach to test vulnerable populations, including congregate settings (such as nursing homes and correctional facilities), communities with insufficient access to testing (including African American and rural communities), and populations that require specialized approaches to testing (including populations with special needs). The Governor’s Health Equity Taskforce provided feedback on this comprehensive plan to ensure increased testing across the state addresses and reaches these communities.

The State continues to expand overall testing capacity through the State Lab, partnerships across the state and with contracts to meet any gaps in testing capacity. The State has recently executed contracts for laboratory services, community testing, Congregate Facility Testing Teams (CFTT) and Infection Control Assessment and Response (ICAR) teams.

Laboratory services will work to quickly, efficiently and correctly test and report COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) results. Community testing teams will work within their communities to staff mobile and diagnostic testing sites. CFTTs will work in congregate settings as needed. ICAR teams will provide information, tools and resources to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. Infection control assessments will be conducted onsite at facilities and include review of safety and cleaning practices, visitor restrictions, monitoring and screening of residents and staff, PPE use and a plan for resident grouping based on positivity rates.

The state is partnering with the following 11 commercial providers.

Provider Contracted Service
Omega Diagnostics, LLC
Lab Services
Premier Lab Services
Lab Services
Stone Clinical Laboratories
Lab Services
Tulane University Health Sciences Center (contract pending)
Lab Services
LCMC Health
Testing Services - Regions 1, 3 & 9
2 CFTTs, 2 ICAR teams
LSU Health Sreveport
Lab Services
Testing Services - Region 7
4 Community teams, 2 ICAR teams
New Orleans East Hospital
Testing Services - Regions 1, 3 & 9
1 Community team
Ochsner Clinic Foundation
Testing Services - Regions 1, 2, 3, 4 & 8
5 CFTTs, 5 ICAR teams
Pafford Medical Services, Inc.
Testing Services - Regions 2, 4, 5, 6 & 7
8 CFTTs, 8 ICAR teams
Safety Management System, LLC
Testing Services - Regions 1, 2, 3, 4 & 8
5 CFTTs, 5 ICAR teams
Southwest LA AHEC
Testing Services - Regions 2, 4, 5 & 7
8 CFTTs, 6 ICAR teams

LDH’s Office of Public Health will deploy partners to communities and regions where needs are identified.

More testing is planned for areas that have more need for tests or may not have testing readily available to them. Areas like nursing home facilities and prisons as well as African American and rural communities along with individuals with special needs.

At the press conference on Friday, when asked about moving from Phase 1, Gov Edwards said that he will be making an announcement on Monday on what will happen with moving to Phase 2. That movement to Phase 2 could be as soon as next Friday. To enter phase 2 Edwards said we have to meet the criteria and officials will be looking at the data by region in the next few days

Mobile testing has already begun in certain parishes. Some in Acadiana include those in Acadia and St. Martin Parish. Acadia Parish began testing on May 26. These testing locations are at rural, neighborhood, or local businesses. Residents will test at mobile units.

Read more here.

This morning, Gov. Edwards joined Lt. General J. Laura Richardson, Commanding General of the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome for a sendoff ceremony for the Navy medical team that has been serving at Baton Rouge General for the past six weeks. The sailors have treated more than 600 COVID-19 patients alongside the hospital's team.

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