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Edwards sounds alarm as coronavirus spikes

Staff Reports
Plaquemine Post South

Gov. John Bel Edwards sounded the alarm Thursday as Louisiana suffered a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that could derail its recovery from the infection if the spread isn't stemmed quickly.

"There's been a lot of talk about a second wave in the fall, but we are very much still in the first wave," Edwards said. "The reality is every Louisianan needs to do a gut check on whether he or she has been slacking off on taking proper precautions."

Both Edwards and Louisiana Department of Health Dr. Alex Billioux said the increasing number of cases can't be completely attributed to an increase in testing.

Billioux said three regions — Acadiana, Lake Charles and Alexandria-Pineville — are hot spots for COVID-19.

"Acadiana is showing an alarming rise," Billioux said.

"We're seeing a rise that in two weeks could make us look like Texas (if residents don't take precautions)," said Billioux, noting case spikes in Texas and other states.

Edwards said the agency is working to review all of its data and expects the daily updates to return on Friday. He did say seven more people have died raising Louisiana's death toll to 2,957.

The governor said he hasn't decided whether to extend his 21-day Phase 2 reopening order beyond June 26 rather than entering Phase 3 as was hoped.

"We'll make that decision next week ... when we have more data," Edwards said. "Nobody wants to go backwards."

Edwards said he believes fewer people are following precautions like wearing masks and social distancing.

"The simple fact is we need people to wear masks, wash their hands and stay home when they're sick," he said. "Flattening the curve isn't something you do once and then it's over. We can easily see gains we've made evaporate. The numbers we've been seeing show we can't afford to be complacent."

Edwards said despite the increases, the state's hospital capacity isn't yet threatened as was feared early in the pandemic.

"We're nowhere near that," he said.

Edwards said people should leave businesses where employees or customers aren't complying with restrictions.

"Just because more things are open doesn't mean we should go everywhere we can," he said. "If you go someplace and there are too many people and too few are wearing masks go somewhere else. Don't go in." 

Louisiana was once in the top three states with the most per capita cases before making significant reductions in the infection.

"We had a turnaround story like almost no one in country," Billioux said. "We know how to do this."

Louisiana Department of Health Dr. Jimmy Guidry said if the state doesn't slow down the infection rate now the combination of COVID-19 and the flu in the fall "will look very much like it did" during the peak of the pandemic in the state.