UPDATE: Gov. Edwards issued the following statement about President Trump’s commitment of 150 ventilators to Louisiana as it fights COVID-19 and works to surge its medical capacity so it can care for residents who are sick.
Louisiana estimates the New Orleans area will run out of ventilator capacity on April 5, though this number changes as the state receives ventilators.
Prior to this announcement, Louisiana had received 292 ventilators from vendors, including 100 ventilators on Monday.
“This morning, President Trump committed to me that he would make sure that Louisiana received ventilators. He has just announced that we will get 150 ventilators, which will be the first we have received from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, though I surely hope they will not be the last. We don’t yet know when they will arrive in state or exactly what type of ventilators they are. But I very much appreciate this support," Edwards said.
"While this does not meet our overall need, each ventilator we get in Louisiana helps us extend the timeframe that we can provide care to Louisianans who are ill, which is critical as we deal with the growing threat of COVID-19 in our state.
"In total, Louisiana has ordered 14,000 ventilators, including 5,000 from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile. Louisiana has the third highest number of cases per capita, and I will continue to fight to make sure our state’s needs are not lost in the national conversation.”
At his daily media briefing, Gov. Edwards said today he will be issuing an updated stay-at-home this week to bring Louisiana's protocol in line with President Trump's orders that extend through April 30.
Edwards' order originally was set to expire on April 12. Yesterday the president extended his orders to April 30. Edwards thanked the president for that.
"It lets people know that we are nowhere near over the hump, and it creates a realistic expectation with the public," Edwards said.
Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters announced that all SNAP recipients will be moved to their allowed maximum. That will affect about 60 percent of SNAP recipients.
"Those SNAP recipients who are not at the maximum they are allowed will be put to the maximum. This will automatically be loaded on their cards, they don't have to do anything to receive this," she said.
The state is suspending deadlines, waiting periods and work requirements.
"We want people in Louisiana to have food during this time," she said.
The phone lines are overloaded right now, so she urged people to use the department's website. She urged people who aren't getting SNAP to apply because they may be eligible now.
Edwards stressed that residents need to continue to stay at home, to save lives.
"Under any conceivable scenario, we are going to exceed our medical capacity," he said.
When he revisits his stay-at-home order, Edwards said he will work with the CDC and Homeland Security to revise parts of it.
As of noon on March 30, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 485 additional cases since Sunday, bringing the total to 4,025 positive cases.
So far, 185 people have died.
"Ventilators continue to be the most pressing need in the short term," the governor said. "And we don't have much progress to report."
Edwards said that, during a conference call with the federal task force, the President and Vice President this morning, he was assured by the president that ventilators will be sent to Louisiana.
"We don't have numbers or a timeline. But we believe that will be from the national strategic stockpile," he said.
So far, Louisiana has ordered 14,000 ventilators and has received fewer than 200.
Edwards said he is asking all "like-minded" Louisiana residents to join him every Tuesday during the lunch hour to fast and pray.
In response to a media question, officials said that they're trying to decrease the wait time for test results. A new machine is coming for the state lab, which could bring much faster turnaround time. The goal is to have a response within 24 hours.
As he always does, the governor asked people to comply with the stay-at-home order. When asked specifically about a Baton Rouge-area preacher who continues to hold large church services, he said he's asking that preacher to do what the vast majority of other faith leaders have done: comply and offer services in other methods.
"We need more compliance. We're asking people to do what is really their obligation as a citizen. Leaders have an even greater obligation," Edwards said.
One reporter asked Edwards who he is holding up. He says it's much tougher on medical workers, and he doesn't need anybody to feel sorry for him.
"This is tough for everybody. What makes this so unlike other things we've faced in Louisiana, like natural disasters. Typically when those happen, Louisiana and maybe one or two other states impacted, and so your sister states are eager to help, and they send you things to help," he said. "In this case that doesn't exist, because every state is in the same fight. Some are ahead of us, and some of them are behind us, but everybody's looking for PPE, ventilators, staffing, beds. That's what makes this hard, and the frustrating part is that knowing what you need, it's really hard to make the kind of progress you know you need to make in the time in which you think you have. We need people to help us as much as they can by flattening that curve."
We will be live-streaming the governor's presser here and on our Facebook page.