Gov. Edwards expresses optimism about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in final news conference of 2020

Gov. Edwards optimistic about COVID-19 vaccine distribution day after record number of cases reported

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed optimism about the state’s continued rollout of two federally approved COVID-19 vaccines in his last public address of 2020.

Gov. Edwards announced Thursday, Dec. 31 the state would receive enough doses of the Moderna-manufactured vaccine by Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 to begin vaccinating people in the first tier of the state’s Priority Group 1B. Individuals 70 years of age and older, as well as, ambulatory and additional healthcare make up the first tier of Priority Group 1B.

The governor said there are about 640,000 eligible people in the first tier Priority Group 1B and it will take some time before everyone in that group is vaccinated. Gov. Edwards said people in the first tier will be able to vaccinate at about 100 pharmacies throughout the state. Those who qualify to receive the vaccination at this time will have to make an appointment with the pharmacy.

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“I am relieved to end this year by expanding access to the COVID vaccine to more Louisianans, though I know we have a long road ahead of us before we put this pandemic in our rear view mirrors,” Gov. Edwards said. “I hope all Louisianans will consider taking this safe and effective vaccine when it is their turn to get it, because that is how we will ultimately reach herd immunity and get our lives back to some form of normalcy. Already we have lost more than 7,400 people in our state to this terrible virus, and new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. This vaccine is a new weapon we have in the fight against COVID, but to be effective people must take it. In addition, we have outlined how we will proceed with the next tier of people in line, so that people may plan for the future.”

Gov. Edwards told reporters he will get vaccinated with either the Moderna or Pfizer-manufactured vaccine when it’s time to vaccinated the priority group he is in, Priority Group 1B, Tier 2. The governor is in the same priority tier as biomedical lab workers, essential government response personnel, prison guards, teachers, postal workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.

COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups
COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups (Source: Office of the Louisiana Governor)
COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups
COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Groups (Source: Office of the Louisiana Governor)

The news conference came less than two days after Republican Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, died from complications to COVID-19. Gov. Edwards began the address by
reflecting on Letlow’s character and expressing his condolences to Letlow’s family.

“Luke was a good man. It’s just a devastating loss for Louisiana,” Gov. Edwards said. “[It’s] Hard to wrap your head around it - someone who was just 41 with no underlying conditions as I understand it.”

Letlow defeated fellow Republican Lance Harris in a runoff election on Dec. 5 to represent Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. Gov. Edwards did announce a date for a special election to fill the now-vacant congressional seat during Friday’s address.

The governor’s last news conference, which was not previously scheduled, came the day after the Louisiana Department of Health said Wednesday’s case count was the state’s highest single-day total of coronavirus cases reported during the pandemic so far, without neither a backlog nor two days worth of cases.

Louisiana’s previous highest single-day total was 4,339 cases reported on Dec. 9.

The state reached another alarming milestone Wednesday. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased for the third day in a row Wednesday, surpassing 1,700 statewide. Louisiana has not seen more than 1,700 hospitalizations since April 16 when the state’s first surge of the virus was beginning to subside.

LDH reported 4,051 new cases of COVID-19, 40 new COVID-related deaths, and an increase of 14 hospital patients about an hour after the governor’s address ended Thursday.

Gov. Edwards urged Louisiana residents to avoid large gatherings for the New Year’s holiday, wear masks when out in public, and practice social distancing.

In his last address on Dec. 22, in which Gov. Edwards announced Louisiana will remain in a modified version of Phase 2 until Jan. 13, 2021, the governor told reporters he would not be holding another news conference in 2020 unless “the situation arises.”

The governor alerted media outlets about the impromptu news conference hours after the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reported 6,754 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

FULL VIDEO: Gov. Edwards holds final news conference of 2020 about Louisiana's COVID-19 response

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