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Louisiana Coronavirus Updates: Deaths top 1,000 in state but only 500 new cases

The first federal relief checks have made their way to Louisiana, as coronavirus numbers continue to plateau and leaders debate reopening businesses.

NEW ORLEANS — This blog has ended. See live updates for Wednesday, April 15

Latest Numbers:

  • 1,013 deaths (+129)
  • 21,518 total cases (+502) 
  • 1,977 patients in hospitals (-157)
  • 436 in need of ventilators (-25)
  • 64 of 64 parishes reporting cases
  • 118,422 test completed (+10,331) 

Key Updates: 

  • There are now more than 21,500 cases of COVID-19 and 1,013 deaths since the first known case in the state was revealed on March 9. 
  • Governor John Bel Edwards will keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic school year.
  • The first federal relief checks have made their way to Louisiana in the form of unemployment boosts and stimulus checks.
  • Healthcare workers and first responders continue to work around the clock as coronavirus numbers plateau and state leaders begin the debate on re-opening businesses.

Read yesterday's live blog 

Louisiana pushes back two election days

Two upcoming election days in Louisiana, including the state’s presidential preference primary, have been pushed back again due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that the state’s presidential preference primary election will now be scheduled for July 11. A general election that had been set for July 25 has been rescheduled to August 15.

RELATED: Two Louisiana election days pushed back again due to coronavirus

Louisiana surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 deaths 

Deaths from the new coronavirus now total 1,013, in Louisiana, after the Louisiana Department of Health reported Tuesday that 129 more patients had died from the virus over the past several days. 

While it's the biggest jump in daily deaths (nearly double the previous high of 70) from the health department, Governor John Bel Edwards stressed the fact not every patient had been lost in the past 24 hours. 

Regardless, he said, it was still a massive loss and an indication Louisiana "took a step back in the COVID-19 fight." 

“Today’s death count is the largest we have reported in a single day since this COVID-19 outbreak started and it brings the number of Louisianans we have lost to more than 1,000. That’s 1,013 people who are someone’s mother, father, sister, or brother or child or aunt or uncle. They are our neighbors, friends and coworkers. They are more than just a number on a report or graph, and as our fellow Louisianans, we all grieve alongside their families," he said. 

Edwards said the latest LDH analysis shows that, on average, most COVID-19 deaths come about 11 days after a patient first shows symptoms. 

"We must look at long-term data and trends. It is also why it is incumbent upon our people to follow the Stay at Home order, because just as the positive things we do now will save lives in the future, the negative things we do could threaten lives as well," Edwards said. 

Cases by parish (SE Louisiana):

  • Orleans: 5,718 cases, 276 deaths
  • Jefferson: 5,188 cases, 210 deaths
  • East Baton Rouge: 1,295 cases, 58 deaths
  • St. Tammany: 898 cases, 55 death
  • St. John: 562 cases, 48 deaths
  • St. Charles: 460 cases, 24 deaths
  • Terrebonne: 265 cases, 17 deaths
  • Lafourche: 481 cases, 13 deaths
  • St. James: 208 cases, 13 death
  • Tangipahoa: 391 cases, 11 deaths
  • Plaquemines: 142 cases, 11 deaths
  • St. Bernard 377 cases, 8 deaths
  • Washington: 162 cases, 9 death

While Tuesday's death toll spiked, only 502 new coronavirus cases were reported across the state out of the 10,331, continuing the downward trend in percent increase in total cases, which now stand at 21,518 total.   

Hospitalizations, impacted in part by the amount of deaths, saw the largest decrease in the right direction Tuesday: 157 fewer people in the hospital for treatment compared to yesterday's report. 

The New Orleans area now has 65% of its ventilators available for use if needed and continues to make improvements in ICU and regular beds availability.  

Louisiana schools will remain closed for the school year, Edwards says

Gov. John Bel Edwards says he plans to officially close public schools for the remainder of the semester amidst the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state. 

Edwards said at a press conference in Monroe, La. Monday that he would make the official declaration sometime Tuesday. He is expected to hold his daily press conference at 2:30 p.m. that day. 

"It is my intention now to announce that school will not resume in the sense that students are going to the school building," Edwards said.  

Schools in Louisiana have been closed since mid-March, when the governor shut down public schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by young people, many whom research suggests could be asymptomatic carriers.

Read more 

As Louisiana's COVID-19 numbers improve, when is the right time to reopen businesses?

Non-essential businesses in Louisiana have been closed since early March to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

But, as we start to see the rate of new cases and deaths flatten out in the state, some people are anxious to see the local economy reopen.

State Representative Mark Wright, R-Covington, wants the state’s stay at home order lifted at the end of April, when it’s currently set to expire.

“I think we’re going to face a point in the near future where we’re going to lose a lot more people’s livelihoods than we know,” Wright said. “Clearly, we still got a lot of health risks. So, there is no doubt we want to be respectful of that and respectful of what the governor has done.”

Epidemiologist Susan Hassig from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine maintains more Coronavirus testing needs to be in place before people start mixing again in public.

“Definitely the thing that public health personnel are most worried about is not basically losing all the benefit we had from this social distancing,” Hassig said. 

Read more 

First federal relief checks deposited for Louisiana residents

Ava Dejoie, secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said the number of claims is exponentially higher these days that it usually is.

Right now, she said, there are about 171,000 people who have applied for unemployment in Louisiana. Nearly 120,000 of those people filed for during the last three weeks, she said

“In all of last year we had a little bit over 103,000 people,” Dejoie said.

On Monday, the state Workforce Commission paid out $89 million in state and federal unemployment dollars.

Read more

'A great scenario': Empty beds at the Convention Center field hospital

It’s been about three weeks since the convention center in downtown New Orleans was quickly turned into a field hospital to help take on the expected surge of COVID-19 patients. 

Thankfully that surge didn’t happen to the extent it could have, but the facility still plays a role and will continue to do so.

There are currently 1,000 beds in place for COVID-19 patients. Most of those beds are empty. 

“That’s a great scenario. That’s what we want to see,” said Dr. Meghan Maslanka who is the medical operations manager.

 As of Monday afternoon, there were 75 COVID-19 positive patients inside the convention center. They don’t require hospitalization, but for whatever reason are unable to go home.

Read more 

Why Louisiana isn't reporting coronavirus recovery numbers

We have gotten many comments asking why we don’t report the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Each day, the state reports the number of total coronavirus cases, the number of those who died from the virus, and the number of those hospitalized. On Monday, April 13th the State Department of Health reported 21,016 total cases, 884 deaths, and 2134 patients hospitalized. It also breaks down all that data by parish, by gender, by ethnicity, etc.

The Governor’s office says recoveries are tough to track “because most people who are sick recover at home.” They say “a person is considered recovered when it has been at least seven days after the onset of illness, AND at least three days after resolution of fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) AND resolution or improvement in respiratory symptoms.” The state says it’s working on a way to track recoveries, but there is no requirement for those people to notify the state they’re feeling better.

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Coronavirus cases reported at 116 Louisiana nursing homes

Health officials say cases of the coronavirus disease have been reported at than a quarter of nursing homes in the state.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, cases of COVID-19 have been reported at 116 of Louisiana's 436 nursing homes as of Monday. In total, 1,040 nursing home residents have tested positive for the disease, and another 201 patients have died.

Those numbers do not include cases in other adult residential settings. 

“These facilities care for thousands of Louisianans, including older people and those with underlying medical conditions that put them at a higher risk for complications and deaths from COVID-19,” LDH said.

Read more 

Walmart to close Algiers store for deep cleaning

Another Walmart store in the New Orleans area will close for a day for a deep cleaning and to re-stock shelves.

The Walmart Supercenter in Algiers on Behrman Place, will be closed on Tuesday, April 14 and reopen on Wednesday, April 15 at 7 a.m., according to Anne Hatfield, the director of Walmart Global Commications.

Three New Orleans-area Walmarts were closed for a day last week.

Read more 

Winn-Dixie surprises first responders, healthcare workers with free groceries

The workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic were surprised with a special thank you at the store Monday night: Free groceries at Winn-Dixie and other markets around the Southeast.

Southeastern Grocers, the owners of Winn-Dixie and other grocery stores, says they footed the bill for first responders and healthcare workers buying essentials during their designated shopping hour. 

A spokesperson said Southeastern Grocers was inspired after entertainment mogul Tyler Perry paid for the groceries of elderly shoppers at all 29 Winn-Dixie locations in Louisiana and 44 Kroger grocery stores around the Atlanta area last week. 

The chain owners said Perry challenged them to give back, too, so they decided to step up and say thank you to the community heroes who have been working around the clock to take care of COVID-19 patients.  

Read more 

Jefferson Parish first responders thank healthcare workers battling COVID-19

Outside of Ochsner Westbank Hospital, RN Ireion Barnes is finishing up another long shift.

“Every day is different,” said Barnes, talking with WWL-TV’s Paul Dudley. “It just depends on the patients and how sick they are.” 

These days, for Barnes and countless other healthcare workers, the work is harder than ever.

“The healthcare workers in Jefferson Parish -- they really are our first line of defense with the current COVID-19 crisis,” said Jason Rivarde with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.  

That’s why JPSO and the Terrytown Fire Dept. decided these healthcare workers needed a bit of support as they were leaving work Monday. 

“We were watching from upstairs,” said one healthcare worker. “We were like what the heck is going on?”

Read more 

Plasma treatment looks promising in critical COVID-19 patients

People who have recovered from COVID-19 could have a life-saving ingredient flowing in their blood. It may be the key to helping others who are fighting for their lives.

Doctors in Louisiana are now trying convalescent plasma therapy for critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

"It has been very very promising," said Dr. Tim Peterson, Medical Director with The Blood Center. 

Convalescent plasma therapy allows someone who has recovered from a COVID-19 infection to donate their plasma for someone critically ill. It's similar to a regular blood donation, but takes slightly longer. It's believed their plasma may have antibodies to help the critical patient fight the virus.

Read more 

New Orleans doctors hope hyperbaric chambers could save COVID-19 patients

A new and different way of treating patients with COVID-19 may soon be studied in New Orleans. 

Monday, a panel of doctors met to decide if the study, treating patients in oxygen chambers, can move forward. The idea dates back more than a century.

Hyperbaric oxygen chambers have been used for decades to heal. They pump many times the oxygen under pressure into a patient. And recently Dr. Paul Harch, emergency medicine and hyperbaric oxygen specialist at LSU Health, came across information from the deadly 1918 Spanish flu outbreak.

"It was a doctor in Kansas City who realized that Spanish flu victims were dying at a much higher rate at altitude in the Rockies, and he thought it was due to the low pressure and low oxygen," said Dr. Paul Harch, an emergency medicine and hyperbaric oxygen physician at LSU Health Sciences Center.

But using the oxygen chamber helped.

Read more 


MORE: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Interactive Map

MORE: COVID-19 Timeline: See how fast things have changed in Louisiana

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.

Worldwide illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including severe pneumonia that can result in hospitalization or death. 

Older people and people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or cancer seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.

People with recent travel to China, or have come in contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have a greater risk for becoming ill.

What to do if you are sick:

If you recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 transmission, and you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the doctor without calling first.

If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Louisiana Department of Health hotline at 1-855-523-2652. 

If you are severely ill and you think you need to go to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.

How to Prevent the Spread:

The virus is thought to spread between people in close contact (within 6 feet) and through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Especially wash hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home if you feel sick to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Cover your cough with your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.

Treatments for COVID-19:

There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19. People with coronavirus should be treated with supportive care to help relieve symptoms. 

Some severe cases require going to the hospital, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.

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