State takes positive steps forward with hurricane recovery, COVID-19 mitigation efforts

Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards held a press conference Thursday to address hurricane recovery and the continued impacts of COVID-19, both of which have some positive updates.

First addressing hurricane recovery, Gov. Edwards noted that Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Vermillion are the parishes that have had the greatest damage. These areas were impacted by both Laura and Delta.

“That poses lots of challenges when it comes to FEMA’s rules regarding documentation for reimbursement,” Gov. Edwards noted.

Roughly 8,000 people remain in shelters across Louisiana and Texas. Those in Texas will be returning back to the state in the coming days.

“Those with major damage to their homes are going to receive new hotel assignments in Louisiana,” Gov. Edwards said. “If they have their own cars in Texas they will be asked to drive. Those without the state will provide transportation.”

Of the evacuees, only 231 are from Hurricane Delta. The rest are those still suffering from impacts caused by Hurricane Laura.

“We are working with the fire marshal’s office to go look at those homes to find out if they can return to their home,” he said.

Thankfully, the damage caused by Hurricane Delta is not presenting major additional challenges. Gov. Edwards says 96% of Delta power outages have been restored. He noted that energy officials say that any category 2 storm, it typically takes 10 days to get this much restoration complete. They did it in less than a week.

“That’s due to the tremendous effort by thousands of crewmen,” he added.

Although signs of progress are happening, it’s yet another blow during a year that seems fought with stress, fear and devastation.

“It’s more than anybody should have to bear, so we’re making a request to the federal government for more mental health resources,” Gov. Edwards said.

The Louisiana Department of Health currently offers two resources for free mental health assistance. Individuals can call the Keep Calm Hotline at 800-310-7977, or text “reachout” to 741741.

“It’s important to recognize the number of stressors we’re all facing right now and to be honest about that," said Dr. Joe Kanter, who is the acting Assistance Secretary for Public Health. "We’re now in our eighth month of the outbreak. We’ve had more hurricanes this season than we had names in the alphabet. There’s other stressors as well, there’s an election, economic issues - I think it’s important to take a moment and acknowledge that and to let people know that it’s okay to feel stressed and under the gun. I certainly feel that way on a number of days. These are unprecedented times. It’s not fair, but that’s what it is. And it’s okay to feel that way, we all do. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get help, there are resources out there.”

Regarding COVID-19, Dr. Kanter said Louisiana’s early warning system for schools is going well and there is no indication of massive spread.

“Thankfully we are not seeing large centers of transmission through k-12 that people feared,” he added.

The biggest benefit to Louisiana in the fight against COVID-19 is our weather.

“Now that the weather is nice, we have an advantage from other states,” he said. “It’s much safer to be outdoors. The more time that we spend outdoors, the better. It’s just good for you. Whatever activity you’re doing, think if you can do it outdoors.”

Be mindful, however, that being outdoors doesn’t eliminate the risk of COVID-19. In fact, small gatherings outdoors with close family members is contributing to a significant number of cases of spread.

“Those are people you know well and there’s an irrational assumption that if you know someone then they don’t have COVID,” Gov. Edwards explained. “Anytime you are around someone not part of your immediate household, please make sure that you are wearing a mask and physically distancing.”

Along with taking precautions against COVID-19, mitigation measures should help prevent significant spread of the flu. Gov. Edwards predicts that we could see a lower than average flu season if people continue to adhere to mitigation measures. He warned, however, that everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot this year whether you have in the past or not.

“We don’t want to have a significant flu season while we’re dealing with COVID-19,” Gov. Edwards noted. “We’re asking people to make sure you get your flu shot this year.”

The state is providing its annual flu vaccinations around the state. CLICK HERE for more information.

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