Governor John Bel Edwards is at UL Lafayette Thursday to tour the university's COVID-19 testing and vaccination site.
The university is participating in the state's Shot for $100 campaign, a new incentive program announced last week that will give $100 to the first 75,000 college students who get their COVID-19 vaccines at participating institutions of higher education.
UL's walk-in COVID-19 testing and vaccination site is open to university students, faculty and staff, and the general public. It offers the Pfizer two-dose vaccine. The clinic is administered by members of the Louisiana National Guard in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health and UL Lafayette.
During his visit, Edwards toured the vaccine clinic and shared an update on the case count regionally and statewide. The governor also made a commitment that if the state runs out of the first 75,000 $100 incentives, he will find the money to keep it going.
He then shared his concern for Region 4, which makes up most of Acadiana, which he says isn't making the progress it should be.
"We have seen for the first time in a long time the statewide positivity percentage is actually decreasing a little bit, not much, from 16.1 to 15.5 percent. Well over 18 percent of all tests administered in the Acadiana region are positive," Edwards explained. "And we know as a state as a whole for the first time in 16 days, today we reported less hospitalizations than yesterday; that is not true for the Lafayette region."
As kids and college students head back into the classroom, Edwards emphasized the priority for face-to-face learning and the fact that wearing a mask and getting the shot not only protects the students, but also their teaches and families.
"We want to have as normal experience as we can have on college campuses. If we want to reduce transmission and cases among that age group, but also as a state as a whole, we need to focus on this group," he said. "Especially when you have folks coming all over the state and country at one time to be in close proximity from one another, it's really important."
Edwards also met with students, university administrators, leaders of the area's major hospital systems, and regional officials with LDH, Office of Public Health Region 4 Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski.
We caught up with students who got vaccinated and received their $100 incentive. Some say they'll be buying some UL merch and others plan to pay toward their debt.
UL Lafayette senior Jeremiah West says he was not expecting to get paid for getting the shot. He says he finally got over his doubts of the vaccine and decided to get it for his family. He also shared his urge for things going back to normal.
"This is almost two years," he said. "It’s been a long time. I would advise you and everyone in your family to get vaccinated.”
Another student, Caleb Barras, hopes to kick off his freshman year by purchasing UL gear with his $100 gift. He's eyeing a baseball jersey.
He tells KATC, his reason for getting vaccinated is the recent spike in cases.
“I just figured it was better to be safer than sorry. Because I see all the bad things that happen in the world, so I figured it was better to get it now.”
This has become a common concern.
“We have over 3,000 people in the hospital in the state today because of COVID," said Gov. Edwards. "That is ten times where we were on July 1."
Another concern for the state, children returning to the classroom without a mask on. The governor is worried about the consequences of spreading the virus in K-12 schools.
“The absolute perfect recipe for disaster is is to bring in hundreds of kids from around an area, put them together in close proximity for seven hours without masking them and then sending them home at the end of the day," he said. "There is no way to withstand the additional cases that would result from that.”
Below are photos of the governor's tour:
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