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Gov. Edwards holds press conference on COVID-19

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Posted at 3:02 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 17:03:03-04

Governor Edwards is holding a press conference on COVID-19 on Monday.

The press conference comes after the The Louisiana Department of Health reported Louisiana's first presumptive positive case of COVID-19.

"While I was on a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence about the coronavirus, I learned that we have a presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Louisiana, a Jefferson Parish resident who is hospitalized in Orleans Parish. It still must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understand that we are treating this as a positive case and this confirmation process will not slow us down from taking any necessary actions to continue monitoring and preventing the spread of this virus.

I have promised that we would be transparent about this and we will. Later this afternoon, I will be joined by public health officials for a news conference to answer questions.

Now together we all—as a government, as health care systems and providers, as schools, businesses and as neighbors—must take action and be vigilant to prevent the spread of this virus in our great state.

The novel coronavirus and preventing the spread of illness has been an increased focus over the past weeks and months, as we see more cases pop up all over the country.

In response, I launched a Task Force that is leading the planning effort for different scenarios involving COVID-19 and our state agencies have been coordinating with the federal government and each other to ensure that we are preparing for and responding to this public health threat properly."

Here are some of the comments from the presser:

Louisiana has several hundred tests in the state's lab to test cases as needed, he said. He said people who meet the CDC's protocol for risk of infection are being tested. He also said he feels confident the state will get more tests from the CDC as needed.

"We were told commercial testing will go live across the United States and in Louisiana this week," he said. "This is important because testing capacity is a concern for all states."

The governor also said that commercial testing allows people who are sick and meet the protocol can talk to their personal doctor and get tested. Any presumptive positive test from a commercial lab will be verified by state labs before it is reported to the CDC, the governor said.

Edwards said officials and experts tell him that the risk is still low for spread in Lousiana and the United States, but "we're obviously taking this seriously and we've been preparing for this for many weeks."

Louisiana's task force was created last week and has been planning for different scenarios, communicating with other state officials and with federal officials, he said.

"But we need the people to be vigilant as well," he said. "We encourage you to wash your hands frequently and well. Control your cought. Disinfect frequently used surfaces, and avoid close contact with folks who are sick. If you are sick, stay home, away from work or school. This will help us tremendously to control the spread of illness."

Senior citizens and people with chronic health conditions should protect themselves and avoid people who are sick, and that includes people who live with vulnerable people, he said.

"I want to reiterate. We've been preparing for several weeks. Now is the time to rely upon the best available information, and to take every precaution suggested to you, and to take this seriously," Edwards said.

The governor was asked about the possibility of cancelling events - since Louisiana's spring festival season is about to begin.

"We don't currently have a CDC recommendation for cancelling events," Edwards said. "We are in consultation with local officials and organizers of these events and these are some of the things we will be deciding over the next several days and potentially over the next few weeks as this situation develops."

When media asked him to provide more information about the person who has tested positive, the governor responded tersely.

"I've announced all the details about this case that i'm going to announce," he said. Edwards said any people in that person's life who need support or possible screening have been or will be contacted and provided with attention.

Media also asked about the economic impact of the virus.

"It's far too early to speak about that with any specificity. There will be an impact. It will be adverse. That much we know. We don't know right now what that's going to look like, but it is more important than ever to look at the models given to us by economists, who are experts," Edwards said.

The revenue estimating conference will meet within the next few weeks and will inform the budget plan, he said.

Edwards was at the opening of the Legislative session when he first commented on the news of the possible positive case.

On March 2, Gov. Edwards presided over Louisiana's first Unified Command Group meeting and announced the creation of the COVID-19 Task Force comprised of key state and federal officials. The Louisiana Department of Health and other agencies have been planning for several weeks on how the state will respond to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the health of the public.