Apr 14, 2020

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Briefing Transcript April 14

Louisiana Briefing April 14
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsLouisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Briefing Transcript April 14

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced thee early release of non-violent state prisoners in a coronavirus press conference today, April 14. Read the full transcript here.


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John Bel Edwards: (00:00)
First, I did want to talk about today’s numbers. Unfortunately, we hit a very grim milestone that I’ll get to in just a moment. Today we’re reporting 502 new cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana, and that brings us to a total of 21,518 confirmed cases. The death count has increased by 129, and that is the largest number of deaths that we’ve reported in a 24-hour period since this started. Not only is that the largest number, it brought us over 1,000 deaths total, to 1,013. The top three parishes for today’s deaths: Orleans with 32, Jefferson with 24, Caddo with 17.

John Bel Edwards: (00:55)
I hope the gravity of this resonates with everyone out there, because we’re not just talking about the number,, 1,013 or today’s number, 129. Every one of these numbers is a person. It’s one of our neighbors, it’s one of our friends, it’s somebody’s parents, somebodies child. So I don’t want that to be lost on anyone. These are our fellow Louisianans and we grieve for them alongside their families. Of course I’m asking people to lift all these families up in prayer.

John Bel Edwards: (01:39)
We’ve been saying for a period of time that even though we report deaths every day, not every death that we reported happened in the previous 24 hours. That’s certainly the case with these. In fact, our analysis, it appears that only 21 of the 129 deaths that we’re reporting today actually occurred in the previous 24-hour period.

John Bel Edwards: (02:04)
Our analysis further shows that on average, death comes 11.2 days after the onset of symptoms for those individuals who do succumb to this disease. That’s why we’re continually looking at the data and trying to figure out what the trends actually are. 72 of the 129 occurred in the last three days. So it remains very important for everyone to follow the stay-at-home order. Because just as compliance with the stay-at-home order and social distancing and proper hygiene will save lives because fewer people will contract the disease and fewer people will be in that daily account that we just talked about, it is also true that the failure to do these things will mean that more people are exposed to the virus, many of whom will contract the disease. And a certain percentage of those who contract the disease are going to get ill, go to the hospital. Some will die. And then many of those are going to continue to transmit it.

John Bel Edwards: (03:13)
So what we have to do is focus on the things that we’ve been talking about for literally weeks now. That is following the stay-at-home order, be patient, practice social distancing, practice good hygiene, minimize your contact with people, absolutely stay home if you are sick, those sorts of thing.

John Bel Edwards: (03:33)
Now, while that number of 129 deaths is very troublesome, there are some positive signs in today’s numbers as well. They do show a drop in the hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 and a reduction to later ventilator utilization of people with COVID-19. We also have some new testing sites to talk about for people who need to be tested because they have COVID-19 symptoms. I remind folks the test that we’re administering, they are not reliable for individuals who don’t yet have symptoms. So those are the individuals that will be tested.

John Bel Edwards: (04:20)
But in St. Charles Parish beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, April the 15th, there will be testing at Hahnville High School in Boutte. That will be in the morning starting at 8:00. They will run until noon or until they reach a capacity of 250 tests.

John Bel Edwards: (04:37)
In St. James Parish, we will have testing at Gramercy Elementary School. They’ll have a soft opening for the first responders and senior citizens over the age of 65. Then they will be open daily from 8:00 AM starting on Thursday for people over the age of 18. You will have to be in line by noon in order to be tested at Gramercy Elementary School.

John Bel Edwards: (05:03)
Starting tomorrow, GOHSEP will provide tests for the Alario Center testing. Currently, it’s a FEMA pilot program. FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services from the federal government sponsored these sites. These were the first three of the first sites in the country.

John Bel Edwards: (05:20)
Two of them were in Orleans Parish, one was in Jefferson and in Jefferson it’s been at the Alario Center. So they are withdrawing the federal support, but we’re going to continue to administer the testing at the Alario Center. It’s just going to go and be administered by GOHSEP, so it’s going to become a state-operated and -funded testing site starting tomorrow.

John Bel Edwards: (05:43)
So that should be pretty much a nonevent for the individuals because it’s going to continue to function just as it has. COVID-19 testing will be available at the Alario Center to any individual 18 years or older with symptoms. They’re going to continue to test up to 250 per day, and it opens at 8:00 AM seven days a week.

John Bel Edwards: (06:08)
Today’s test count, and this was also the largest number of tests that we’ve ever reported in a 24-hour period, but it’s 10,331 tests. That brings us to a total of 118,422 tests, which according to all of the publicly-available data on testing across the country, Louisiana is number one per capita for the tests that have been administered.

John Bel Edwards: (06:37)
I do want to thank Sasol for contributing $100,000 to corona relief efforts. They’re supporting our frontline emergency responders, healthcare professionals, educators, food service providers through the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana Fund. Sasol employs more than 1,200 people in that community and that’s a very generous donation. We really do appreciate it.

John Bel Edwards: (07:06)
We have a few other important announcements. One is the Paycheck Protection Program that’s being administered through the Small Business Administration just reported, this was what I was talking about before I walked out, 17,097 loans have been made, approved, in Louisiana through that program. A little more than $3.7 billion for Louisiana businesses. Also, we’re announcing the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in prisons by granting a temporary furlough to some nonviolent non-sex offenders who are within six months of release, so they’re in the last six months of their prison sentence. These efforts mirror the same actions being taken at the federal level based on the order of US Attorney General William Barr. He’s done that through the Bureau of Prisons. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Secretary LeBlanc we’ll speak more on this topic in just a moment.

John Bel Edwards: (08:05)
Today I also signed a proclamation moving Louisiana’s elections back several weeks at the request of Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. The June 20th, 2020 presidential preference primary election in Louisiana will be rescheduled for July 11th from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The July 25th, 2020 election is hereby rescheduled for August the 15th from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

John Bel Edwards: (08:36)
The secretary of state is presently developing a plan for how to move forward with the election. He’s going to present that to the legislature tomorrow. Both the House and Senate Government Affairs Committee will meet at the State Capitol tomorrow to consider his plan.

John Bel Edwards: (08:53)
Now, as I close with my prepared remarks and I’ll come back up in just a moment to answer a couple of questions from citizens and then answer your questions. We’re still very much in the middle of the efforts to flatten the curve and see that curve actually start to trend downward, which is incredibly important. We’re reporting and everybody is seeing some of these favorable numbers.

John Bel Edwards: (09:17)
Now, we know that today’s death count is serious, the largest ever. But as I mentioned before, that’s a lagging indicator if you look at the number of tests that were informing our information today and that being the highest ever. The case count, obviously it’s troublesome to have 502 new cases, but that’s not anywhere close to the highest number that we’ve had.

John Bel Edwards: (09:46)
When you especially look at hospitalizations, and ventilator usage, so we’re seeing some positive trends. But the reason we’re seeing the trends, and this is what sometimes gets lost on people, is because of the mitigation measures. It’s because of the stay-at- home order. It is because of social distancing. It is because of hygiene. It’s because sick people are staying home, doing all of those things.

John Bel Edwards: (10:08)
Because had it not been for those things, we would have seen the modeling come true that we were talking about a month ago. Very, very troublesome. Because you can remember we started off having the quickest growth in cases in the world right here in Louisiana. We’re in a much better place. It’s because of what we’ve done. And if we stop doing those things too soon, we know we’re going to see a spike again, and we’re going to get back right back to where we don’t want to be.

John Bel Edwards: (10:37)
Because I am so pleased to tell you there is not a single region of our state where as far out as we can accurately model that we see that we’re going to overwhelm our capacity to deliver healthcare today. So within the next couple of weeks, that’s not going to happen. But it can easily happen if people resume their normal activities, they stop following the hygiene guidelines that we’ve put out, they stop following the social distancing guidelines and they stop complying with the stay-at-home order.

John Bel Edwards: (11:14)
So we’ve got to continue to message that. The decisions that we make today, collectively, what people do, they’re going to have either a positive impact on our state or a negative impact. The truth is we’re not going to know for a week, 10 days, 11 days, something like that.

John Bel Edwards: (11:36)
So let’s just consider that and just understand that what it means to be a good neighbor today is very different than what it was before the novel coronavirus came to our state and started spreading this nasty disease of COVID-19. Think about not just yourself and your family, but all the other individuals and their families who are out there as well.

John Bel Edwards: (11:59)
Think about those 1, 013 deaths that we’re reporting in Louisiana. It’s just a very tragic situation and it’s not going to be over tomorrow, it’s not going to be over next week. But we can make sure that when it is over, there will not have been the worst possible case scenario that it could’ve been otherwise.

John Bel Edwards: (12:23)
Now I’m going to turn the podium over to Secretary LeBlanc and he’s going to talk more about the program I just mentioned. Then I’ll come back and take some questions from the public and then your questions.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (12:35)
Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everybody. The COVID pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the state of Louisiana, including those committed to working and those committed to our prisons that spend time in our jails and prisons. We have created the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel to evaluate certain nonviolent non-sex offenders for suitability pursuant to the state law, which authorizes DOC to grant temporary furlough to inmates within their last six months of prison sentence.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (13:14)
These efforts mirror the same actions as the governor mentioned taken by the federal level based on the order of US Attorney William Barr. Public safety, obviously, is paramount to anything that we do when you make decisions of furloughing any inmate, which is why we have chosen to create a review process that involves multiple stakeholders.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (13:35)
This review panel would be comprised of myself or designee, Director of Probation and Parole or designee, the executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board, victim’s advocate appointed by the governor, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association or designee, executive director of the District Attorney’s Association or designee.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (13:58)
To to be considered suitable, a vote of five of out of six panel members is required. The panel will review inmates on a rolling case-by-case basis until the governor ends the Louisiana Public Health Emergency. Conditions of the furlough require home incarceration with ankle monitors and active supervision for the duration of the furlough. The individual furlough can be canceled at any time during this event if a violation occurs.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (14:27)
The panel is tasked with reviewing two separate groups of DOC inmates for the purposes of release. Group one includes inmates currently housed in state prisons, which with pre-existing medical conditions who meet the following criteria: serving sentences for nonviolent non-sex offense, are within six months of their release and, important to note, they must have housing or a residence plan ready to receive them.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (14:53)
Group two includes inmates who are mostly housed in local jails and meet the following criteria: serving sentences for nonviolent non-sex offenses, are within six months of their release date-

Jimmy LeBlanc: (15:03)
… and have served at least six months, having house or a residence plan ready to receive them. So that’s the basis of it. We do have a press release, I think it’s out there, and in the press release you’ll see a little bit more detail about the things that we’re doing. And I think it’s important for me to note, and I hope the governor will permit me to use this opportunity to thank the staff in my own department, the work they are in response to this pandemic, like our community healthcare workers, those working for the Department of Corrections are all considered essential staff, essential to providing public safety for this state.

Jimmy LeBlanc: (15:40)
Their commitment to reporting to work and providing for the safety and security of our prisons in our community is commendable. Prison staff are committed to both ensuring security and providing healthcare to those in our facilities. Probation and parole staff are continuing to provide community supervision and filling nontraditional roles of supporting the state’s response. They are some of the heroes of our response in this state. So with that, I’ll take any questions you might have. Yes sir.

Speaker 1: (16:11)
How many prisoners do we think are going to qualify for this, given it looks pretty narrowly tailored?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (16:19)
It is, on group one, it’s approximately 100 with medical conditions. Group two, is around 1100. Yes ma’am.

Speaker 2: (16:32)
The department had a lawsuit filed against it in federal court today involving a plan to move COVID positive patients to Camp J at Angola. Can you talk a little bit more about the decision making involving Camp J and if you can respond to anything involving that decision?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (16:54)
Well, being a lawsuit, it’s difficult to say a whole lot other than the fact that if you look at our response to the injunction that was filed, I think that pretty much covers the basis of how we feel about what we did at Camp J. I think it was the right move on our part for the department. Obviously I wouldn’t have done it and it’s a safe haven for those that are there honestly.

Speaker 2: (17:15)
How many people have been moved to Camp J at this point?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (17:19)
The number is around 46.

Speaker 2: (17:20)
And they’re from both state prisons and also local prisons?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (17:25)
No ma’am. They’re local level, and only Angola houses positives there. Everything else is housed at the state facility, where they [inaudible 00:00:17:34]. Everybody’s doing their own isolating in quarantine.

Speaker 3: (17:42)
Is the reason behind this to reduce the population and lower the chance of spread of corona? I mean, what’s the idea behind it?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (17:52)
It is to create room, in that sense, and I think that’s the main thing is to create room at the local level and obviously especially on the medical end, if we can get people out of harm’s way, that certainly is a plus too. And I think it’s a way of mitigating the potential for future spread.

Speaker 3: (18:13)
Was the review panel a recommendation from the Feds or Attorney General Barr or was it just something you guys decided was appropriate?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (18:21)
No, actually the statute allows me to do it, but I thought it was in our best interest and everybody’s best interest, along with decision with the governor, that creating a panel was the best thing to do and getting everyone involved in the process, as we have done for pretrials at the local level, we working with the judges, the DA’s, the sheriffs, and all those involved in the criminal justice system to do the right thing at the local level and we’ve already done quite a bit. This is just an extension of what we’ve already done.

Speaker 4: (18:54)
When will the reviews begin?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (18:55)
Friday. Friday is our first review, all done on Zoom, Dropbox’s, all electronically.

Speaker 4: (19:04)
And how many a day will you go through, you think?

Jimmy LeBlanc: (19:06)
Well, we starting the first panel schedule [inaudible 00:19:08] in the first day and we’ll see how that goes, to determine how to give us an idea of what we can do. Probably meeting two to three times a week. We’ll do that every week, I mean for whatever time it takes. Yeah?

Speaker 7: (19:28)
Yes. I mean this may not be the main reason to do these furloughs, but is there a financial discussion as well? I mean that the state governments been spending quite a bit, rightfully so, on a lot of these measures but-

Jimmy LeBlanc: (19:41)
No, honestly I haven’t looked at that, but I’m sure it will be some advantage on the funding side of it, but that’s not the reason behind this. Not at all. Thank you.

Speaker 6: (19:54)
Thank you, Jimmy.

John Bel Edwards: (19:55)
Jimmy, if you want you can go back to work. Appreciate you Jimmy. Okay, today’s first question comes from Shreveport and Matthew asks, “Is there any way we can volunteer directly in the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19?” Well, it’s not technically volunteering, I guess if it’s an order, but you can follow the stay at home order. That’s very, very helpful to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as we mentioned, practice social distancing of at least six feet between yourself and others, practicing good hygiene, including washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer when you can’t get the soap and water, staying home when you’re sick and when you’re out in public and going to be in close proximity to others, it’s now a CDC recommendation that you wear a mask and so you can do those things, check on your family and friends by calling them or you can use Zoom and FaceTime and Skype and other alternatives. Encourage them to do the same.

John Bel Edwards: (21:02)
I’m also asking folks to, if they are able to do so, to consider making a financial contribution to the local food bank. This crisis has caused a lot of people to access food banks for the first time and so the demand being placed on the food banks is something they’re not accustomed to and a little bit of money really goes a long way in our food banks and being able to feed people. Obviously nutrition is important all the time. It’s certainly important now when we want people to be as healthy as possible and have strong immune systems. One dollar will provide four meals, so just keep that in mind and so I’d ask you to visit feedinglouisiana.org, so that’s feedinglouisiana.org for more information and they’re obviously a lot of other charitable organizations who are doing really good work across Louisiana. You can find out more by visiting coronavirus. la.gov.

John Bel Edwards: (22:02)
Olivia from Lafayette asked, “How is the virus different than the seasonal flu and why shouldn’t we compare the number of deaths yearly from the flu to COVID-19?” I think there are some comparisons and contrasts being made with respect to the flu. There are obviously some similarities. The flu is itself a coronavirus, right?

Speaker 7: (22:25)
It’s a different virus, it’s an influenza virus.

John Bel Edwards: (22:28)
It’s an influenza virus, I’m sorry. The similarities are that they are viruses. They are obviously some real differences however, and the differences are the fact that the novel coronavirus is much more easily spread. It’s much more contagious than the flu. For example, the transmission rate of the flu is typically about 1.3 people. For COVID, a single infected person would be expected to infect about two and a half people, so twice as contagious. The average number of people who need to be hospitalized with the flu is about 2% whereas if you catch a COVID-19, if you contract that disease, it’s 19 to 20% are going to require hospitalization and the fatality rate for the flu is 0.1% but for COVID, as best we can tell is somewhere between 1% and 3.4%. So obviously some real differences as well, although some of the symptoms are the same, fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath and so forth.

John Bel Edwards: (23:44)
So there are obviously some similarities as well but we’re asking anyone who is symptomatic, make sure you’re contacting your healthcare provider and if you’re symptomatic get tested as best you can. You can call 211 if you need information about testing, the testing protocol and that sort of thing. Tomorrow, our press conference is going to be at 4:00 PM because I have the monthly radio show that I will do tomorrow at 2:00 and tomorrow I plan to be joined by Beth Scioneaux, acting superintendent of education to discuss the situation relative to K through 12 schools and the rest of the year. So with that I will take your questions and Dr. Billioux is here as well. [Leo 00:00:24:35], I am going to start with you in the back room.

Leo: (24:38)
Thank you. I’m seeing marketed more traffic on the streets [inaudible 00:24:42] people are getting back out despite the warnings and when you look at the number of tests that have been done about 110-112,000, I think you said, and you look at the number of people who have come back testing positive, it’s about one in five and it works out to about 19 and a half percent. Is there any mechanism in place for when people might return based on the fact that they had been cleared by the test?

John Bel Edwards: (25:07)
Yeah, first of all, to address the first point you just made, obviously I’m not out and about every day, but I did fly to and from North Louisiana yesterday over some of our major highways. I did see more traffic than quite frankly, I expected to see or wanted to see and your observation is consistent with what I’m being told by other people. For example, when they come to work here at Gohsep, they’re seeing more traffic every day than they were seeing before. And we also have some social distancing apps now that are kind of assigning letter grades and we weren’t doing particularly well to begin with. I think our state was graded at a C or a C minus. I believe we moved down to a D most recently because they’re using the GPS data in people’s phones to kind of measure what the movement is. And that’s why I’m trying to make sure that people understand that COVID-19 remains in every community. It is obviously fatal for a number of people. We’re reporting on these deaths. People are contracting this disease and continue to spread this disease and so it’s important that people follow all of the precautions that we’ve been giving them, whether it’s the order to stay at home, whether it’s the hygiene, the social distancing, all of those things. It’s incredibly important. I will tell you this, if you look at the efforts that have been made in Louisiana to increase our testing, they have been tremendously successful in the sense that we are administering more tests per capita than any other state in the nation. Very helpful. The worst thing you want to do is not know what you’re dealing with, and now we can say that we have testing in every single region of the state.

John Bel Edwards: (26:58)
Every parish of the state has testing available, but we’re not satisfied. We’re trying to expand on the testing that’s available for surveillance purposes, for diagnostic purposes and for detecting the presence of the antibodies through serology tests. Now these things are coming online now and we have to make sure that they’re approved and that they’re effective and reliable and so forth. But I will tell you the key to moving forward, especially between now and such time as a vaccine becomes available, will be through very aggressive, robust testing in all three of the categories that I just mentioned plus contact tracing so that when we get back to where we can remove some of these restrictions and start to open up our economy, you’re going to see a lot more testing and the test results will inform our decisions and not just about who can potentially go to work and so forth. If we start seeing a spike in testing, we may have to ratchet back down and put in place more restrictions too. And so what we don’t want to do is go right back to that place where we’ve been trying to avoid and so testing plays a big role in all of this. It’s a big part of Dr. Billioux’s day, is coordinating the testing around the state, but also looking to private sector testing capacity and working with our federal partners to maximize the tests that are available here. Because while I salute him and I thank him and his team for their good work and really you should know that over 90% of the tests that are coming in every day now are coming from commercial labs and so we have healthcare providers. These hospitals are really stepping up. These FQHC’s are really stepping up.

John Bel Edwards: (28:52)
Gohsep here, is going to start running the drive-through testing at the Alario Center and so forth. We have Walmart with drive-up testing now. All of it is incredibly important as we move forward and we’re going to continue to bring more testing online and not less testing and I don’t know if you wanted to add anything to that but that really is going to be key to us going forward and I think you hear Dr. Fouche say this quite often as well. Yes sir.

Speaker 1: (29:22)
Governor, you extended the deadlines for the presidential primary and the general election following. We’re obviously still going to be dealing with coronavirus in November. Do you think the state should move towards universal mail-in ballots like we’ve seen in other places for the November election?

John Bel Edwards: (29:40)
I don’t know that we’re going to need to do anything in November terribly different than what we’re going to do in July and August. We really don’t know what the situation is going to be there. You’re going to see the Secretary of State present a plan to the legislature tomorrow that is going to allow for all of the options. So you’re going to have election day voting, you’re going to have early voting, and perhaps even-

John Bel Edwards: (30:03)
… extended early voting, and then you’re going to have mail-in ballots as well. And so people are going to have an opportunity to cast a ballot and if they are worried about their health because maybe they’re older or maybe they have an underlying health condition and they don’t want to go in-person, you’re going to see them get the opportunity to request a mail-in ballot. So the Secretary of State has worked with me to craft a plan that I think is reasonable in light of the circumstances and we’ll get through this July and August election timeframe. And plenty of time to see how it worked and what changes might or might not be required before November. And we will have time to do that. Yes, sir. Yeah.

Speaker 11: (30:56)
Oh, sorry. You mentioned this briefly I think two weeks ago, but when we do return to normalcy or that new normal, you’ve mentioned before there’s going to be a transition period again that you’ve mentioned. What necessarily does a transition for people here? What does that necessarily mean? Is that opening sectors at a time? I know that depends a lot on the kind of testing that we’re going to see. Just what does the transition period look?

John Bel Edwards: (31:19)
So when you say sectors, I don’t know if you mean geographic or if you mean by sectors of the economy and it and it could look depending on what’s going on geographically, you could potentially have more activity in certain sectors that haven’t seen is as much of the COVID-19. They’re not hotspots for example, but you are going to see sectors of the economy. So obviously we’ve identified sectors of the economy that we believe to be essential working with the CISA guidelines.

John Bel Edwards: (31:52)
There is a conversation now that when we move past the current restrictions, one of the first things we’re going to have to do is make more medical services available. That’s going to be one of the first things we’re going to have to do. Because we did a lot through the public health, the Department of Public Health in order to conserve PPE, potentially have staffing that would be available to use this surge for COVID-19 patients and so forth through orders of the Department of Public Health.

John Bel Edwards: (32:29)
And so we’ve had colonoscopy that have been stopped. We’ve got other medical procedures out there, we’ve got things that are non-emergency like maybe somebody needs a knee replacement, but you can only put those things off for so long. And so that is a sector of the economy, if you will, where this is directly related to health care that we’re looking to see if we can open that up sooner rather than later. And the rest will come.

John Bel Edwards: (32:59)
And look, we’re going to be working with our federal partners looking for CDC guidance as it comes out. But it’s not going to be like flipping a light switch. And so I can tell you social distancing is going to be part of our future for some period of time. Wearing a mask when you’re out in public and going to be in close proximity to other people is going to be part of what we do.

John Bel Edwards: (33:19)
Staying home when you are sick is going to be part of what we do. I think you’re going to see your temperature taking more than it’s ever been taken in order to gain admittance into different places and hope all of you had your temperatures taken before you got into this room today. You were supposed to.

John Bel Edwards: (33:37)
But that’s the sort of thing that I think you can anticipate for some period of time. If we’re trying to facilitate social distancing, then it doesn’t make sense to go back to the same occupancy limits for places like restaurants and so forth. And so maybe a reduced occupancy limit.

John Bel Edwards: (33:56)
So those are the sorts of things that we’re working through now. And we’re looking at what’s coming from CDC. We’re looking at what other States are contemplating doing and really there’s a lot of decisions that go into this, but all of that is out in the future.

John Bel Edwards: (34:13)
All of that with the possible exception of reopening some medical providers will be after April the 30th. And my commitment to the people of Louisiana is they’re not going to find out on April the 30th what happens on May the 1st. So we’re going to work to put this together so we can announce what things are going to look like several days in advance.

John Bel Edwards: (34:36)
And of course, what that announcement looks like is going to depend in large part on where our case count is at that date and whether our rate of spread has continued to decline or whether it’s gotten larger and so forth. And then as we move forward, we don’t want to get back to a place where we’re on a path to exceeding our capacity to deliver healthcare.

John Bel Edwards: (35:01)
So we’re going to be re-evaluating these measures literally every day as test results come in. Because the sort of the numbers we’re reporting, we’re going to be reporting these numbers for a long, long time and we’re going to be watching this and we can either change things by geographic sector or we can make changes across the state depending on what the information is telling us. And again, doing that in consultation with the CDC. Yes sir.

Speaker 12: (35:29)
We know a lot of people were still having trouble filing for unemployment insurance. Does the state intend to hire more people to answer phone calls at the LWCC or web technicians to process claims online? And what’s left to be done to speed that process up?

John Bel Edwards: (35:43)
Yeah. Well, we’ve already built in more capacity for our phones and for our online service. And I understand that, that people aren’t accustomed to doing as I am still going to ask people to try to file for their unemployment benefits after 10 o’clock at night and before five o’clock in the morning.

John Bel Edwards: (36:02)
You will find that the traffic is lowest and you’ll have the easiest time to doing that. And the Louisiana Workforce Commission is examining all options to bring additional people on in order to take this information and get people’s claims filed.

John Bel Edwards: (36:19)
I do ask people to be patient. This isn’t just an increase that has been slight in terms of the volume of people trying to file claims and do their weekly re-certifications. This is on an order of magnitude larger than we were doing six weeks ago many, many times over.

John Bel Edwards: (36:40)
And doesn’t give any comfort to anybody in Louisiana, but this is an experience that is being shared by people all over the country right now. So I’m going to encourage people to be patient. I will remind people that previously they may have been declined to unemployment insurance benefits because they didn’t satisfy the requirements of Louisiana law, but they may satisfy the requirements of the $600 per month that was contained in the last act of Congress.

John Bel Edwards: (37:12)
And so they need to contact the folks at the Workforce Commission, put a claim in and see whether they meet the requirements and then to do that weekly pre-certification. Because it is required as a matter of federal law to continue to receive. Melinda.

Melinda: (37:29)
Governor, two different topics for you. One on the furloughing situation. Is that something that you’ve thought to do with the juveniles in group homes and detention facilities at the state level?

Melinda: (37:42)
And then on another topic, a lawsuit was filed today involving the abortion clinics and I was wondering what the status of the state investigation was into the [inaudible 00:37:49]

John Bel Edwards: (37:52)
Okay. So we have interim Head of Juvenile Justice and that’s Dusty Bickham. And he has been doing some things with respect to juveniles. The good news there is we haven’t had a single juvenile who’s required hospitalization. And I don’t remember the numbers that I got today and I shouldn’t hazard a guess. I’m thinking it’s somewhere around 10 young people in custody of Juvenile Justice have been COVID-19 positive and a number of them have actually recovered, but none of them had even needed to be put in a hospital.

John Bel Edwards: (38:32)
So he has looked at some measures there and I believe that over Juvenile Justice, he has more discretion on those matters at the outset. And I’ll get you some more information tomorrow.

John Bel Edwards: (38:47)
With respect to the litigation, I think it was filed yesterday. We haven’t been served with it yet, but I did find out again shortly before this meeting today about the litigation that was filed over the order issued by the Office of Public Health within the Department of Public Health as it pertained to the one abortion clinic in the Shreveport area.

John Bel Edwards: (39:13)
I haven’t had an opportunity to meet with the legal team, but to even really examine what the litigation is alleging. But yesterday, a report was given to the Department of Public Health from the Attorney General’s office detailing some of the findings of an investigation that they did into several clinics, at least one of which was not an abortion clinic.

John Bel Edwards: (39:46)
But we had received some complaints of different clinics that were potentially open in violation of the order. And when I say that, that’s not technically correct because the order itself didn’t close facilities. It said there are certain medical procedures that you couldn’t engage in. And so that investigation was given to the Department of Health yesterday. I actually reviewed it this morning for the first time.

John Bel Edwards: (40:17)
What I can tell you is the Department of Health is talking to the Attorney General’s office about the next steps and then it was shortly after those conversations began that we received notice that the litigation has been filed. Another one of the things that litigation is seeking is a temporary restraining order. I haven’t had any indication that the court has granted that restraining order or has denied it.

John Bel Edwards: (40:43)
I don’t really know where we stand, but having said that, that’s about as much as I’m comfortable talking about because litigation is pending, but I can only assume in the very near future you’re going to get a lot more information about this.

Melinda: (40:56)
But you can’t say what the Attorney General’s investigation found and whether they thought that the abortion clinics were violating the order.

John Bel Edwards: (41:04)
Well, what I can tell you is that the investigation did not seek to draw any conclusions about whether or not what they saw violated the order. They reported what they saw to the Department of Health. And I’m not comfortable talking more about it, because I would assume as this litigation proceeds, everything that’s in that investigation is going to be considered as part of that litigation.

John Bel Edwards: (41:33)
And this is all happening pretty quickly and one of the things that I know as a lawyer myself is you shouldn’t litigate things in public like this. Yes sir.

Speaker 13: (41:44)
Governor, I know you’re expecting guidance from the federal government on both some serology testing announcement, as well as how we can spend $1.8 billion we’re getting. Can you give us an update on what the feds have set on either of those topics?

John Bel Edwards: (41:59)
Okay. On the spending first. So the state as part of the Cares Act is going to receive in about 10 days I believe it is $1.8 billion. We know that the intention is that about 45% of that would go to local government and we’re working to figure out how to make that happen. And then the 55% I would stay with the state.

John Bel Edwards: (42:37)
There are restrictions on all of it and that as I understand things now, unless they change this in the next phase of legislation that Congress takes up. Is that you cannot use the funding, either the state or the local government can’t use it to replace revenue that we don’t have coming in because of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

John Bel Edwards: (43:03)
But you can use it for any expenditure this related to responding to COVID-19 and that they’re supposed to be a lot of flexibility on those expenditures. Now, exactly what that means. We are still trying to work through that. It’s something that Jay Dardenne has worked on every single day with his team at the division of administration, to try to figure out exactly what that flexibility looks like.

John Bel Edwards: (43:31)
I can tell you that the governors through the National Governors Association and this is a topic of conversation we have every time that we’re on a video telephone conference with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. We are collectively asking for more flexibility as it relates to that funding so that we can, if we deem fit, use it to make up for revenue.

John Bel Edwards: (43:57)
And I will tell you that most of the requests that we’re getting from local government in Louisiana also is seeking that sort of flexibility. As I understand things right now, we don’t have it yet. So we’re going to keep working on that. But I will tell you we do appreciate the funding. It’s going to be extremely important for us as we move forward.

John Bel Edwards: (44:22)
There are certain things that you typically cannot do with federal funding. You can’t use it as your non- federal match requirement for example, when it comes to FEMA-approved expenditures. And whether at the end of the day, FEMA pays for 75% of the costs that we’ve incurred, that they’ve approved, or whether that moves up to 90% we still have to come up with the rest of that money somewhere.

John Bel Edwards: (44:48)
And so I am specifically asking that we have the flexibility. This is in nature of an expenditure, that we can use the federal funds to meet our non-federal match requirement. We also have a non-federal match requirement that relates to the Medicaid program, and it would be …

John Bel Edwards: (45:03)
… very helpful to be able to spend some of the 1.8 billion, should we need to do so, on that match requirement as well, because with more people being out of work, more people are qualifying for Medicaid expansion who previously didn’t qualify. And I don’t have the count today as I speak to you, but we know it’s going up and we’ll continue to do that for some period of time. So that is an expenditure that was not budgeted in our state budget, and it is something directly related to COVID-19. But we’re trying to make sure that we do have that flexibility. And again, this is in the nature of an expenditure, so I hope we will. But typically, they tell you you cannot use one source of federal funds to draw from to meet your non-federal match requirement.

John Bel Edwards: (45:53)
So we’re still working through it, and quite honestly there’s still a lot more questions and answers around the funding, but I will tell you and our congressional delegation and all of Congress and the president, we are very thankful for the help that that’s going to provide. And we do hope that there is a fourth package that will provide additional relief.

John Bel Edwards: (46:12)
Now, you also asked, because you all have gotten in the habit of asking compound questions, you asked a question about serology testing for antibodies. And I’ve spoken enough for a little bit. I’m going to ask Alex to come and talk about that.

Alex: (46:28)
So, we are still waiting for federal guidance on serology tests. We are also actively looking at really a large number of serology tests. And so, for folks not familiar with that, these are really looking for the body’s immune response to the virus. We’ve got these tests that we use for flu, for all sorts of different infections. And what we want to see is does somebody build an immune response, does somebody produce the proteins in the body that shows that they’ve already fought the virus. And that helps us know that somebody’s been exposed in the past. So it’s not to diagnose somebody that we need to define. That’s where we’re testing for the virus. This is really to give us a sense of who’s been exposed to the virus.

Alex: (47:09)
The reason that you haven’t seen really any state, to my knowledge, move forward with aggressive serology testing is because there’s a number of factors we look at when we’re looking at a test. We want to see how sensitive that test is. Will that test be positive when that person has the antibodies that we’re looking at? We want to see if that’s specific. If it’s positive, or if it’s negative, can I be sure that there aren’t those antibodies there? Okay?

Alex: (47:33)
And now, when we’re talking about something like a coronavirus, we do know that there are other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. The other things that we’re looking at are cross-reactivity. Meaning, if I had the cold this year or last year, is my coronavirus serology test going to show up positive? We don’t want that. And right now, that’s the main hindrance that we’re seeing in why you aren’t seeing us buy up these coronavirus tests.

Alex: (47:57)
The sensitivity and the specificity may be within where we might want them, but our concern is we don’t want to be telling people, “You’ve had the virus before, you may be able to behave differently if indeed what it’s picking up is that I had a cold earlier in the year.” And so, what the federal government is signaling and what we’re following as well is none of us want to move on a test until we feel confident that we can give proper guidance based off of that information.

Alex: (48:21)
And then, the last thing we’re going to look at is feasibility of scale. We want, when we do have this testing, to be able to spread that throughout the state and really be able to give everybody the answer possible. And so, how easy is the test administered? There’s ones that require blood from your veins versus blood from your finger. We obviously want to get whatever is the easiest to deploy widely, but right now the main concern is cross-reactivity.

John Bel Edwards: (48:45)
And why don’t you go ahead and answer this question. Do we know that you can only get COVID-19 once?

Alex: (48:51)
Yeah. So, it’s a good question. So, right now we believe that, when you do build an immune response against COVID-19, that is protected at least for the next several months, if it’s like the cold. We know that that can persist for the coronavirus that causes the cold, I’ll say, because there’s other reasons. We know that that can persist for years.

Alex: (49:10)
However, those of you with children know that you can still get the cold again as you get older. And so, what we don’t think we see with coronavirus is that you get lifelong immunity. That’s why we continue to say the most important thing that we can be doing as a society and in research is trying to get a vaccine that will allow us to really change the way that we’re managing measures and allow us to go back to some semblance of where we were before. Really until we have a vaccine and we have that robust immunity that will last much longer than months or years, it’s going to be hard to pull those things back.

John Bel Edwards: (49:44)
Thank you. And yesterday on our call with the vice president, Dr. Burks, she talked about how serology testing has a pretty high rate of inaccurate results. And you typically don’t do serology testing with just one test. You use them in combination with at least one other to validate the results. And so, we would want the serology tests, if we’re going to use one, for it to be as accurate as possible.

John Bel Edwards: (50:12)
What we don’t want is to have somebody believe they have developed an immunity to something only for them to find out later that they hadn’t done that. And so, if you move too fast, and I will tell you, we have folks in the state of Louisiana working to develop their own serology testing. That’s happening up in Shreveport. And by the way, there’s a lot of really good work going on all over the place. But if you look at the way our LSU Health Science Center Shreveport folks really expanded testing there for COVID-19. They’ve done some really good work on trying to develop their therapeutic treatments, whether it’s the nitric oxide treatment or the convalescent plasma transfusion treatment, some of the first in the country, not just in Louisiana, to do those things.

John Bel Edwards: (51:04)
And then, they are also now working on a serology test that we hope will be one of those that will meet with our approval and the federal government’s approval and that we can use it here. I’m going to take one more question. Yes?

Speaker 14: (51:17)
Thank you. I do want to get a little bit into K12. I know, like you said yesterday, that today would be the day that you corporated that.

John Bel Edwards: (51:24)
Tomorrow. Yeah, so we’re going to be here tomorrow with Bessie, you know, the acting superintendent of education, to talk more. What I said, and I was I guess sort of amused by this, I saw the headline in the newspaper this morning. I didn’t say anything different yesterday in Monroe than I had said here last week. And that is that at some point this week I expected to sign a proclamation where I would grant the request that had been given to me by the school superintendents of the various districts, the school boards of the various districts by the Bessie Board and by the Department of Education. And that is that we would not have school resume in this current academic year.

John Bel Edwards: (52:08)
Now, school isn’t canceled, people just won’t be going to their campuses because there will still be distance learning and other things that are taking place, because we’re going to try to do as much as we can in very difficult circumstances to continue to educate our kids. But they won’t be gathering on a school campus for the rest of this year. She will be here with me tomorrow to take your questions specifically about K through 12. And I’ll entertain the question, but there’s a good chance, depending on what you ask me here in just a moment, I’m going to ask you to wait until tomorrow. Okay?

Speaker 14: (52:44)
Yeah. So, I guess maybe still a work in progress, but this distance learning, a lot of it requires good internet connections with technology. Is that a discussion being had as far as getting students interactive?

John Bel Edwards: (52:57)
Yeah. In fact, that’s been part of the discussion since the very first day that we said this school was not going to be in session, because we want as much learning to take place as possible. Distance learning is critically important. It is easier in some places both because you have the infrastructure for high speed internet and you have certain schools and certain students with much more access to the devices that you need. And then you go out into some of the rural areas and you don’t have either. And so, there is a divide in our state. We’ve talked about it with respect to chronic health conditions and so forth, and what’s happening with the health disparities. It plays out in other ways too, and this is one of them.

John Bel Edwards: (53:47)
And so, it is something that we’re talking about and trying to figure out how we can make an impact on this both in the short-term and in the long-term. You recall that we had announced the Rural Revitalization Committee, and we’re going to be looking at infrastructure and how do we get more high speed internet in the rural parts of Louisiana. We actually have the broadband for everyone in Louisiana that commissioned, it has a wonderful name, the Bell Commission. And it’s looking specifically at high speed internet access in rural parts of Louisiana that don’t have it right now.

John Bel Edwards: (54:21)
But obviously, those things we’re thinking more long-term. We weren’t thinking about the absolute short-term, and so, we obviously have some work to do there. I think you’re going to hear the superintendent tomorrow speak about, not just distance learning, but other things that we’re doing to try to continue to educate our children.

John Bel Edwards: (54:41)
What we don’t want to happen is our children to sit out of an educational setting for so long that they actually regress more than they should. And by the way, this happens every single year with summer break, but teachers are accustomed to that two and a half month summer break and they know exactly how much regression happens and they know about where they’re going to have to start. This is going to be different. And so, we don’t want there to be more regression than is necessary. I’ll put a plug in for LPB. There’s a lot of good instructional program at LPB. And I will tell you that we still have principals and school teachers out there doing a tremendous job of trying to get studying materials into the hands of their students so that they can continue to learn. But we will have a lot more about this tomorrow and some other announcements as well. And so, again, we will see you all at 4:00 tomorrow afternoon, not at 2:30. And thank you all very much. And thank you for being here.

Speaker 15: (55:32)
You’re very much welcome.

Speaker 16: (55:37)
With the ground, on the left-hand side is shaft number one. Further down the tunnel, we also have shaft number two, three, four, and five. The overflow from flooding is collected through these shafts and goes through the tunnel to come up through shaft number one gradually. The water then flows into the Showa drainage pump station.

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