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Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks Wednesday during a press conference livestreamed by Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Governor: Ventilator shortage is biggest short-term problem

A shortage of hospital ventilators is the biggest immediate challenge in Louisiana’s fight against COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
The conference came after the Office of Public Health website reported an increase of more than 400 positive tests for the virus, including three in St. Mary, in a single day.
“One of the consequences of this is ventilator capacity,” Edwards told reporters Wednesday. “In talking to the Department of Health and the Office of Public Health, this is probably the most significant near-term issue related to our ability to treat COVID-19 patients.”
State officials found 100 ventilators Wednesday to deploy in the New Orleans area, which has been hit hardest. Edward said the state expects to place 100 more there Thursday and has a line on 100 more ventilators early next week. But that doesn’t deal with potential shortages in places like Baton Rouge or Shreveport, the governor said.
“We zero out the warehouse every day,” Edwards said.
CEO Tim Cook of Apple has agreed to donate 100,000 N95 protective masks to Louisiana, the governor said.
Even with the donations and the additional ventilators, Edwards said, Louisiana’s hospital capacity could be overwhelmed. The state is looking at ways to create “step down” clinics where patients who are recovering could go, free ICU or other hospital beds for those who require more care.
He said Louisiana continues to try to “flatten the curve,” slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that the inevitable rise in infections occurs more slowly over a longer period of time rather than with a sudden spike that overwhelms medical resources.
“Our efforts really are going to be in vain to a large degree if we don’t get people to do their part by following the stay at home order issued at 5 p.m. Monday,” Edwards said.
The order instructs Louisiana people to stay home from work, unless they’re employed in industries deemed essential or are shopping for food or medication.
K-12 schools have been closed until at least April 13.
The governor said he was encouraged by the progress toward a federal coronavirus aid package in Congress. The Senate was due to vote on the package Wednesday afternoon.
The state government is still trying to find out exactly what’s in the $2 trillion legislation, but the early word is that it includes unemployment benefits for contract workers who aren’t eligible under traditional jobless benefit rules.
Some people have had trouble resetting passwords as they tried to sign up on the Louisiana Workforce Commission site, where idled workers go to apply for benefits, Edwards said.
They should send an email to hire@lwc.la.gov with “password reset” in the subject line and the applicant’s name and phone number and the last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number.
Edwards also thanked President Donald Trump for approving Louisiana’s request for a federal major disaster declaration.

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