BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press briefing Thursday to give an update on the state's response to COVID-19 and vaccine distribution efforts, which he said marked the "beginning of the end" of the pandemic.
The briefing came after a vaccine event at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.
"This is the beginning of the end," said Edwards. "This is the process to put this pandemic behind us."
The governor said that his team is working to add the number of COVID-19 vaccines given to residents across the state to the COVID-19 dashboard on the Louisiana Department of Health website, which he said could be as early as next week.
Edwards said that about 7,000 vaccinations of healthcare workers have been documented so far, but that the total number of vaccinations would exceed that number.
He added that 71 hospitals across the state have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine shipments as of Thursday and that the state has already received its first full shipment of 39,000 vaccine doses.
Those doses are currently going toward the Priority 1A group, which includes frontline healthcare workers at Tier 1 hospitals. That group not only includes doctors and nurses but also other hospital workers like custodians, food workers, engineers and EMS workers.
The governor said that he expects the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to receive an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA later this week similar to the one given to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine last week.
Edwards said that he is unsure exactly how many doses the state will receive next week as they have to wait to receive their allocation each Friday for the next week's doses before making another request.
He said that he is also waiting for further recommendations from the federal government about which group will be in line to receive the vaccine next after the Priority 1A group. He said that he expects more first responders and even teachers to be included in the next group.
Edwards said that he has spoke with medical workers across the state who are concerned about hospital capacity in the recent third surge with regard to bed capacity but also staffing for medical workers.
Dr. Takeisha Davis, CEO of New Orleans East Hospital, said that she along with several other members of hospital staff had recieved the first dose of their vaccines on Tuesday.
She said that there have been only a handful of adverse reactions reported from those taking the vaccines, and that 95% of those who with the vaccine do not contract COVID-19.
Davis said that it will still be a while before everyone has the chance to get the vaccine, so everyone should continue to follow the public health guidlines including wearing a mask, staying six feet away, washing their hands and getting the flu shot.
She also said residents should be mindful about planning large family gatherings for the holidays.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state health officer at the Louisiana Department of Health, said that the state is working on a partnership with Walgreen's to expand its drive through COVID-19 testing.
Edwards said that out of the 32 Walgreen's sites in the state, 19 will have drive through COVID-19 testing seven days a week.
He said that this will help aid the Louisiana National Guard with its drive through testing sites to help free them up to deploy elsewhere.
Edwards said that they will still be used for community testing sites across the state.
As of Dec. 17, the number of total coronavirus cases reported in Louisiana increased by 3,851 and the number of deaths had increased by 31, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
Of these cases, 2,988 are confirmed cases and 863 are probable cases. The total coronavirus case count in the state on Thursday was 279,321. The current total death count is 6,964.
LDH reports that 232,725 patients are "presumed recovered." (These numbers are normally updated on Mondays. The last update was on 12/14/20).
As of Thursday, 1,584 patients were hospitalized across the state (up 18 from Wednesday), 169 of those patients were on ventilators (up 2 from Wednesday).
Across Acadiana, there were 542 news cases and 6 new deaths since Wednesday. As of Dec. 16, there were 225 hospitalizations in LDH - Region 4, which covers most of Acadiana.
See the full breakdown from the Louisiana Department of Health, here.
You can watch Thursday's press briefing below:
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