Louisiana's experience with COVID-19 continues to improve, albeit gradually, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
"We are seeing modest and sustained improvement in our numbers," he said. "The case growth rate is an indication that we still have a lot of work to do and everybody needs to continue to play their part."
Louisiana's percent positivity is now below 10 percent, at 9.4 percent, which is a good sign, Edwards said.
Edwards gave an update on unemployment: Louisiana's grant application was approved and so we will be participating in the $300 federal unemployment.
"We don't have that funding yet, and this is very different than previous funds," Edwards said.
The money is being administered by FEMA and "we hope to have it by the end of the week." Edwards said those who qualify should see money next week, and it will be retroactive to August 1.
"We believe we will have the first round of funding by the end of this week, and that sometime next week the checks will start going out," Edwards said.
There still are questions about eligibility, and some people who were eligible for the first round of federal money won't get this payment under the federal laws, Edwards said. He estimates about 415,000 will be eligible.
The eligibility changes are due to the way that the U.S. Department of Labor is interpreting the President's order; it's mostly people who are getting less than $100 per week in benefits from the state, he said.
Edwards said he knows it will be a burden for the people who don't qualify, and even for those who do, having half of what they were getting is hard. He said he's still asking Congress to pass a package to put benefits in place long-term.
In terms of COVID numbers, Edwards said Louisiana's mitigation measures are working - slowly.
"While we have seen improvements in the cases, we are still red, in terms of our cases, because we still have a high incidence of COVID which exceeds 100 per 100,000 in population," he said. "In fact, of all the states in the country, we have the fifth-highest incident rate."
The number of people in the hospital has dropped 25 percent since the mask mandate and the closure of bars, Edwards said. That has helped Louisiana's hospitals, although 15 still have no open ICU beds or medical surge beds, he said, and cases among hospital employees continue to affect staffing.
The rate of infection is higher than it was after the stay-at-home order was lifted, because "we're trying to keep as much of our economy open as is possible," Edwards said.
Wearing masks, practicing social distancing and other mitigation measures will help to continue to drive down the rate of infection, he said.
Mitigation must continue because K-12 schools and universities are re-opening over the next few weeks, he said.
"We are closely monitoring school and college trends," he said. "We will be digging into the data to see how re-opening affects our numbers."
Right now we have 35 K-12 school systems open in Louisiana. None of them are open entirely for education in the classroom for all students. Some are virtual-only, others are hybrid, he said.
"Without doing that, it would not be possible to accomplish the physical distancing that is necessary," he said.
LDH is developing a reporting system for K-12 schools, and will be communicating with schools over the next few days. Some districts and schools already have plans in place.
"We do believe there needs to be accurate data that is made public by the universities," Edwards said in response to a media question. "We want people to have confidence in what we're doing, and what we do know is that if you are not sharing data quickly and transparently, that confidence erodes."
The schools aren't the only reporting entities. We are encouraging parents to keep their children home when they are sick," he said. "The parents should be monitoring their symptoms, and keep them out of school if they're having COVID-type symptoms. Many people believe young people don't get COVID. That is absolutely false. The large majority of kids will be mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, but they will still be contagious."
Have had more than 12,000 cases of COVID of people younger than 18. A few young people have died of COVID or the related MIS.
LDH also is working with higher ed for their reporting mechanism, he said. The post-Memorial Day surge in cases was driven by young people - the same young people who moving back to dorms and apartments, the governor said. It's important they know what their role is and what they need to do.
The governor spoke directly to college students, pleading with them to limit their activities so that school can remain open for the entire semester.
Community spread is the large factor in the spread of the virus, and family parties or get-togethers are fueling a lot of the cases, Edwards said. A lot of people seem to think it's OK if it is just family members, but the virus doesn't know who is related and doesn't care, he said.
On the politics side, Edwards said he does not support the Secretary of State's plan for voting. He said it doesn't go far enough, it doesn't follow elementary CDC guidance, and it doesn't take COVID seriously. He said the plan doesn't even accommodate voters who are in quarantine.
"It is woefully inadequate to the task, we do not support it, and that plan will not be carried out for these elections," he said. "Any resolution will likely have to come from the courts, and that's unfortunate."
Voters shouldn't be required to chose between their right to vote and their health, Edwards said.
The briefing will begin at 3:00 pm. KATC will live stream the press conference on katc.com, on air, and our Facebook page.
A live stream can be viewed below:
As of August 18, the number of coronavirus cases reported in Louisiana increased by 640 and the number of deaths had increased by 28, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
The total number of cases in the state is now at 139,125 and 4,431 deaths as of Tuesday.
LDH is reporting that 103,512 coronavirus patients are "presumed recovered" (updated weekly, last updated 8/10/20).
The LDH reports 1,204 people currently hospitalized (down 22 from Monday) and 187 of those are on ventilators (up 3 from Monday).
More state numbers can be viewed here.
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