BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a news conference about Louisiana’s response to COVID-19 and vaccination efforts on Tuesday, March 9, one year since the first case of the coronavirus was reported in the state.
On Monday, March 8, the governor’s office planted nearly 10,000 white flags outside of the Louisiana State Capitol to represent the number of Louisianans who have died from the coronavirus in the last year. As of Tuesday, 9,769 people in Louisiana have died from the coronavirus.
The state has reported 434,926 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. As of March 1, officials with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) say 415,954 patients have recovered from the virus.
Early in his address on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Edwards confirmed the state will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include all adults and some teenagers who also have certain pre-existing conditions or meet other criteria. Those specific conditions and criteria were outlined in a letter sent to a number of pharmacies so they could be prepared for the announcement.
Gov. Edwards says the change in eligibility is effective immediately.
The full list of conditions includes most diabetics, people who suffer from severe illnesses like cancer, or those with weakened immune systems, obesity, moderate to severe asthma, and even those who smoke will now be eligible.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, who joined Gov. Edwards at the news conference Tuesday, echoed new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about mask-wearing for fully-vaccinated individuals. The CDC issued new guidance on Monday, March 8 saying fully-vaccinated Americans could gather with other fully-vaccinated people without masks or social distancing.
Officials with LDH say 102,849 Louisiana residents have been fully vaccinated so far.
The governor addressed a damning report released Friday, March 5 that states LSU, the state’s flagship university, mishandled sexual misconduct allegations on its campus and did not have the adequate Title IX policies, procedures, and staffing to do so. Title IX is the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.
“I believe that the individuals who actually completed the study were able to make some recommendations to the LSU board and president as to what discipline they thought might be appropriate under the circumstances. It is my understanding the president adopted that and I’m not going to second-guess it.
I will tell you that I was obviously very, very troubled by that report. I did have an opportunity over the weekend to read it in its entirety,” Gov. Edwards said Tuesday.
The report, compiled by a third-party law firm, came after several investigative reports published by USA TODAY in 2020.
Part of the report revealed former LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva wanted the university to fire former LSU head football coach Les Miles in 2013 for allegedly acting inappropriately with female students and disobeying Alleva’s orders to not have contact with female student workers.
Late Monday, Kansas University announced it had parted ways with Miles after two seasons. Miles was 3-18 during his time coaching the Kansas Jayhawks.
Earlier on Monday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing his administration to review the federal rules for colleges and universities in their handling of sexual assaults on campus.
Gov. Edwards did not comment on the actions of the governors in two of Louisiana’s neighboring states, Mississippi and Texas, who lifted statewide mask mandates and coronavirus restrictions on businesses. Last week, Gov. Edwards issued an executive order keeping the statewide mask mandate in place and moved the state into Phase 3 of reopening its economy, which lessens but still maintains restrictions for businesses.
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