NEW ORLEANS — The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will have about 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients within a week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference after touring the facility with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Sunday .
Citing the consistent rate of growth of coronavirus cases in Louisiana, the governor said the state must anticipate the surge in cases to save lives.
"Obviously, we have to work very hard to get in front of this virus because we are playing catch-up. There's no doubt about that," Edwards said. "And it moves fast, and it can be deadly."
Edwards pointed to Louisiana's COVID-19 cases per capita to show where the state stands, and why it's important to observe his stay-home order and social distancing practices.
"We currently have the third most cases in the country of any state on a per capita basis, but we're number two on per capita deaths," Edwards said.
Announcing the number of beds that will be available at the convention center, the governor wanted to be clear about the facility's use.
"I want to make sure everyone understands what will be happening here and what will not be happening here," he said.
Patients looking for treatment should not go to the field hospital, nor should visitors, the governor said. Patients in New Orleans area hospitals who do not need a ventilator or an ICU bed will be transferred to the field hospital, freeing up beds at local hospitals.
"These beds will be for patients who are not fragile," the governor said. "They don't need to be on a ventilator. They don't need an ICU bed, but they still need to be hospitalized. In order to relieve the pressure on our tier-one hospitals, we're going to open those facilities, so they can turn over their beds more often. That is another way that we are surging our medical capacity."
Edwards also announced that more ICU beds have been added to hospitals in the New Orleans region and throughout the state, allowing them to treat more COVID-19 patients.
If the surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelms hospitals in the area, more beds will be added to the field hospital.
"We have the capacity to surge even more beds in here at the convention center," Edwards said. "We will surge additional capacity at the convention center. we are going to be prepared for surge capacity in the event that our hospitals don't have enough beds to care for COVID-19 patients."