BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana is on pace for a worst-case scenario that would overwhelm New Orleans area hospitals with COVID-19 patients, Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday, March 19.
“If you just look at the increase of cases day-to-day, the percentage of new cases and how long it takes to double the number of cases, and this is early, but our trajectory is basically the same as what they had in Italy,” Edwards said. “If we are not going to look like Italy in about ten days or two weeks, it will only be because of these mitigation measures.”
Edwards says the only way to stop the worst-case projection from becoming reality is to heed medical professionals’ recommendations for social distancing and cleanliness.
“We can slow the spread, but I can’t do it for you,” Edwards said, calling on Louisianans to take personal responsibility for the mitigation of the virus’ spread.
“You’re going to have to honor those, and certainly if you’re a leader, you’re going to have to be a leader, and you’re going to have to make sure you’re telling people to follow the rules, and certainly don’t do anything that would lead people to ignore them,” said Edwards.
The bleak outlook is based on new models Louisiana leaders reviewed the week of March 16 that aim to predict how many total cases Louisiana can expect in the coming days. The state is weighing the projection, which is not public, against the total number of available hospital beds and working hospital staff members to determine the potential of overwhelming capacity.
Edwards’ news conference came shortly after he told President Donald Trump Louisiana’s hospitals could be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in seven to ten days.
“I’m asking for help,” Edwards told the president. “We’re going to do everything we can to mitigate and slow the spread, but in the time that we have, we have to increase our surge capacity.”
The case count in Louisiana on a per capita basis is among the highest in the country. While Baton Rouge remains in the clear right now, Our Lady of the Lake says their facility is prepared for a potential surge of coronavirus patients.
A spokesperson for OLOL says the hospital has been making plans.
“We are prepared. We have specific plans for a variety of escalating scenarios, and hope we never have to use them. In order to prevent strain on the healthcare system, we are urging our community to practice social distancing, avoid gatherings, and stay home when sick,” the spokesperson said.
“You [hospitals] know what your available beds are now. You know what your available beds are at the surge capacity that we are preparing for, and so you can kind of circle the day for when your capacity meets your demand, and every day after that, you’re in deep trouble,” said Edwards.
Edwards says they ran the models based on worst-case scenarios related to the continued growth rate of the virus’ spread and the percentage of people who are positive that have to be hospitalized at any given time.
“Basically flattening the curve so that we take the duration of this outbreak and we basically extend it over a longer period of time. That gives our healthcare community a longer time to ramp up, increase their surge capacity, and it also prevents more demand from being placed on them in the very long term,” said Edwards.
The governor urged those who have been asked to self-quarantine to stay at home.
Edwards told reporters Wednesday, March 18 Louisiana may ask some healthcare facilities to hold non-coronavirus patients two-to-a-room to create more space. He also requested the veterans hospitals open their facilities to the general public, though that request has not yet been granted.
As a last resort, Edwards said the state could open some vacant medical facilities that are in good condition. The governor said he was more concerned, however, that the state would run out of available doctors before it ran out of beds.
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