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Gov. Edwards holds news conference on severe weather across south La., COVID-19 response

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 2:46 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed the public on Thursday, May 20, during a news conference to discuss this week’s severe weather and Louisiana’s response to COVID-19.

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The governor warned that rain will continue over the next 18 hours or so with two inches of rain possible in the Baton Rouge area and move west to the Lake Charles area. He said if there is more rain that currently forecasted, it could be a big problem. He urged people to not get out and drive in flash flood environments and don’t drive through standing water. He said there have been five deaths during this flood event and four of those involved people in vehicles.

Edwards said 349 members of the Louisiana National Guard have been activated to assist with high-water operations. There are 109 people in shelters in the state. Lake Charles has 87 people in shelters and Baton Rouge has 22.

Gov. Edwards was asked by the 9News Investigators why Louisiana State Police refuses to release the video, even though it’s now already out there.

Gov. John Bel Edwards encourages Louisianans whose homes sustained damages due to the extreme flooding or other severe weather this week to report their damage through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ online damage assessment at damage.la.gov. Nearly 900 residents have already reported damage since the severe weather began Monday.

The self-reporting survey, which can be found at damage.la.gov, will help local and state emergency managers collect data to move forward with the recovery process.

“The severe weather, including deadly flash flooding, has impacted hundreds of homes in Louisiana. Whether there was minor damage or more than a foot of water, we need you to report it to GOHSEP so that we can use this information to plan any request to the federal government for disaster assistance,” Gov. Edwards said. “Federal relief is not guaranteed, and it is too early to know if any aid will be available, but the first step of the recovery process is assessing the level of damage across the state. Please stay safe as you continue recovering, especially as severe weather may continue through to Friday.”

Reporting to damage.la.gov does not replace reporting damage to a person’s insurance agency. Anyone impacted by the severe weather should fill out the survey to report damage to their home. This includes structures only, not vehicles.

The survey is voluntary and does not guarantee any federal disaster relief assistance. It will be beneficial in assisting with the damage assessment process in Louisiana related to this event. To fill out the report, visit: damage.la.gov. People can call 211 if they need assistance filling out the survey.

According to Edwards, it is still too early to know if federal assistance will be available for flood victims. It is important for those with damage to report it, so there is accurate data on how many victims were affected by the storms.

Edwards continues to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He said about 35% of the state has received an initial vaccine dose and about 30% of Louisiana is fully vaccinated. He added it is not where the state wants to be. He also pointed out that 5,725 children ages 12 to 15 have gotten at least the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. He noted that seven children younger than 18 have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana.

Dr. Joseph Kanter reiterated what the governor said on the importance of the 12-15 group getting vaccinated. He said it is safe for those ages and the vaccine prevents them from spreading the virus to older relatives and others. Kanter also mentioned a letter about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. CLICK HERE to read the letter.

Kanter also stated there have been 810 breakthrough cases in Louisiana. Of those, 47 have had to be hospitalized and 15 have died.

Dr. Theron McCormick, a child allergist and immunologist at Our Lady of the Lake strongly recommended that parents allow their eligible children to get vaccinated. He acknowledged the children could suffer side effects similar to those reported by adults. He added even though children have not been affected by the virus as much as adults, they still need the vaccine to protect themselves and others. He also pointed out nearly 75% of child deaths from COVID-19 were children of color.

Theresa Sokol, the acting state epidemiologist, also talked about the importance of children getting vaccinated. She encourages parents to vaccinate their children to keep them safe. She said it is also the best way to get them back to doing what they love. Her daughter, Elise, who is currently 12 years old but turning 13 in June, is part of a Moderna vaccine trial program. She said she doesn’t know if she received the vaccine or a placebo but thinks she got the vaccine because she experienced side effects after the second dose. She said she is proud and relieved that she protected herself and others.

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