BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards believes it is just a matter of time before COVID-19 also known as the novel coronavirus strikes in Louisiana.
Edwards talked to members of the news media about the state’s preparations during a speech before the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday (March 2).
“We do believe it’s a matter of when and not if that this will happen. My administration is going to announce that, in all likelihood, it will be me,” said Edwards.
So far, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the state, but Edwards said state agencies are being vigilant and so should the public.
"So, we want people to be prepared for that. I do want to say that there's absolutely no need to panic, in fact, not only is there no need to panic, that's exactly the wrong thing to do. But we should all take this seriously, prepare for this and arm yourself with the facts,” he said.
The governor recently created a state task force to focus on the virus and state readiness. He also said Louisiana can now test for the virus.
"We have the capability to test for coronavirus in-state, and the Office of Public Health will be handling those tests for providers across the state,” said Edwards.
Those preliminary results will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Edwards said the public should not rely on rumors or social media, instead he suggested getting information from the state and the CDC.
"If you've not heard it confirmed by the Department of Health it is not real, period,” said Edwards.
He said about two dozen people in Louisiana have self-isolated themselves in their homes for 14 days. They had recently traveled to places where large numbers of people were infected by the virus.
Before addressing the media, Edwards spoke to Vice President Mike Pence about the federal government’s efforts related to the deadly virus.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, held a press call with Louisiana journalists an hour before Edwards gave his remarks.
"Yes, testing should be faster. FDA said over the weekend that they would begin to approve testing developed by outside laboratories in an expedited fashion if the laboratory can show that their tests work,” Cassidy said.
He has filed federal legislation to address future outbreaks of diseases.
"And our idea is if there is a bank account that public health can draw on to immediately get dollars out then we don't have to have this bickering between the two sides rather the patient is immediately taken care of,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy said he will also propose legislation to expand telehealth.
"So, if we’re asking folks not to come to the doctor’s office if they think they’re sick, you know, a mild illness because they’re either going to infect other people but if they’re not infected, maybe get infected then we have to have a way for that senior citizen, for example, to be able to communicate with her doctor, currently there’s restrictions on telehealth,” he said.
Around the country masks are being snapped up but the CDC says it does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings and that most often, the spread of respiratory viruses happens among close contacts within six feet.
Edwards also commented on the urge by many to purchase masks.