BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging families to keep the size of Easter gatherings to a minimum this weekend, warning that this is no time to let up on social distancing in spite of some signs the spread of the virus in the state could be starting to slow.
“There was no Easter exemption from the stay-at-home order. There was no Easter exemption from the 10-person limit (on gatherings). Because that virus isn’t going to honor that,” the Democratic governor said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing. “The virus is very much in control.”
While 70 new deaths were reported by the Louisiana Department of Health for the second day in a row Wednesday, the 746 new confirmed cases were about half of the new cases reported Tuesday.
“That’s a little lower number than we’ve been seeing for our daily case growth, but I want to again remind everyone that we cannot let our guard down because it’s due to the efforts we are making,” Edwards said.
During the briefing, Edwards addressed newly released data indicating 70 percent of the state’s COVID-19 patients are African American, even though they make up only 30 percent of the state’s population.
“That is very concerning to me and to others and it’s unacceptable,” said Edwards. “We want to better understand why that is, what we can attribute it to, and then how we get rid of those disparities over time. But are there any interventions we can make in the short-term that can lessen this?”
Edwards was joined by physician Dr. Corey Hebert who addressed COVID-19’s impact to black communities.
Inequitable access to quality health care and low income are factors of disparity that play into the virus’ reach, Hebert said.
In other news coming out of Wednesday’s briefing, Edwards said unemployed workers will receive an extra $600 per week on top of a state unemployment benefit that maxes out at $247, and gig workers and contract employees will be newly eligible, under the aid package passed by Congress. The increased unemployment check will be available through July 31.
In Louisiana, 277,000 people have filed unemployment claims since March 1, the governor said, compared to 103,000 for all of 2019.
The governor also once again answered coronavirus-related questions from the public, assuring one citizen that she would be able to get back into Louisiana after visiting relatives in Texas and responding to another who asked when things might return to normal.
“I don’t know that you’re going to see life as we knew it before COVID-19,” Edwards responded, adding that mitigation measures are still needed for the foreseeable future, along with testing and contact tracing for some time even when things do begin to turn toward recovery.
The governor is encouraging citizens with questions to submit them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.