Gov. Edwards issues stern warning about rise of COVID-19 in La.

Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards urged Louisiana residents to heed COVID-19 prevention guidelines, including wearing face masks, as the state reported over 2,000 new cases Wednesday, July 1.

Edwards clarified 900 of the 2,083 cases reported Wednesday were from a backlog of tests from an out-of-state lab. However, he said those backlog cases are relevant and of concern, because they go back to the middle of June when hospitalizations started to increase.

The vast majority of cases reported Wednesday (98% percent) were from community spread and not from congregate settings like nursing homes.

The governor said the state has lost all of the ground it gained with COVID-19 hospitalizations in the second half of June.

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The Baton Rouge area was also a focus of the governor’s news conference. Edwards said East Baton Rouge Parish is becoming a COVID-19 hot spot in Louisiana, which caused the White House to specifically call out the parish as a place that should have a mask mandate.

He also said the rise of coronavirus cases in Louisiana’s capital city is a concern because it’s a college town and cases are on the rise among people ages 18 to 29, with 18 to 25 year-old people being the most affected of that age group.

Less than two hours before the governor spoke, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she would be signing an executive order to require residents to wear masks while going out to businesses.

Edwards said he would not be issuing a statewide mask mandate at this time, explaining that the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force did not recommend one at the state level.

Broome announced her administration was working with the state and federal government to enact four new testing sites at Cortana Mall, Southern University, the Greater Baton Rouge Fairgrounds, and LSU.

Officials aim to test 5,000 people per day for COVID-19. Broome said the testing sites could be open as soon as Tuesday, July 7.

Edwards said state health officials will also be looking to add mobile testing sites that can service Baton Rouge area residents who do not have access to transportation.

The governor ended his news conference by urging residents to take precautions over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend. He said the current increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations began around June 14, which could be traced back to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Edwards said there were several reports of residents failing to practice prevention guidelines across the state.

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