BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards warned Louisiana residents to use caution over the Labor Day weekend as they battle the late summer heat, COVID-19, and attempt to recover from Hurricane Laura.
The governor made the comments during a news conference in Baton Rouge Thursday, Sept. 3 before heading west to meet with leaders in Allen, Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, and Vernon parishes.
Edwards said he was “encouraged” by the progress he saw while touring Cameron and Calcasieu parishes during a tour of storm damage Wednesday, Sept. 2. “There is a lot more work left to do,” he added.
The governor announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has paid more than $25 million in assistance to people in southwest Louisiana, as of Thursday.
Edwards said more than 212,000 customers are still without electricity in Louisiana. He said while power is being restored in the northern part of the state rather quickly, it will take far longer for power to be restored in southwestern Louisiana. See the governor’s full comments in the video below.
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Edwards estimated it would be three weeks before power was restored to Calcasieu Parish, the parish in which Lake Charles is located. He did not offer much to counter that argument Thursday, saying “thousands of miles of electrical wires” were down in the southwest part of the state.
Edwards warned citizens to be mindful of the heat and stay hydrated as they work to clean up storm debris. He said two people died from heat-related illness on Aug. 31, raising the death total from Hurricane Laura to 17.
The governor also warned people to make sure portable generators were placed at least 20 feet away from homes in well-ventilated areas and away from vents and windows. He said residents should wait until a generator had cooled before attempting to refuel it. Edwards said a house was burned down after a generator caught fire when a homeowner tried to refuel it while it was still hot.
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Edwards said the state was sheltering 11,954 people, as of Thursday, mainly in New Orleans area hotels. He asked the thousands of people who were sheltering in hotels provided by the State of Texas to continue to stay in Texas, if possible, as the state would not be able to house an influx of that size in non-congregate shelters. The governor said the state was trying to minimize the number of people in congregate shelters to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
He implored residents to wear face masks, practice social distancing and hygiene, and keep gatherings relatively small over the Labor Day weekend to prevent cases of COVID-19 from spiking in the coming weeks.
Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force told Edwards and governors of other states during a call Wednesday, her biggest concern was an increase COVID-19 infections occurring over the Labor Day weekend, according to Edwards.
Edwards said mitigation measures were extremely important because of the influx of disaster relief workers from out of state and residents of devastated areas traveling around Louisiana. He thanked those who had come from out of state to help with recovery efforts but asked them to wear a mask while working.
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