Sep 7, 2021
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Hurricane Ida Press Conference Transcript September 7
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press conference on September 7, 2021 to provide updates on damage and conditions from Hurricane Ida. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Gov. John Bel Edwards: (00:00)
… Russo with the Department of Health. All of these individuals will deliver prepared remarks after mine. Then I will come back up and close out and then take your questions. Obviously, over the past week, all of you all have heard me relay a lot of numbers regarding response progress and ways to access aid that’s currently available. These are the folks who can speak directly to those efforts with their respective agencies. And that’s why I’ve asked them to deliver updates. I’ve traveled now to 13 parishes that had severe impacts from Hurricane Ida. We did that over the past week, and I can tell you that we obviously have an awful lot of work to do to get people right-side-up again. I can also tell you, however, I’m very proud of the team effort that has been made.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (00:55)
And when I say team, I’m not talking about just the team here at the state level, I’m talking about all of the parish offices of emergency preparedness, the sheriffs, the parish presidents, the EOC directors, I’m sorry, OEP directors, and our federal partners as well. But this is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. As we gather today, we still have five parishes that have more than 95% of their power out. I believe that’s St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Terrebonne, and Lafourche. So while we’ve seen lots of improvement, a lot of really good work, in terms of power and water, and in terms of cell phone coverage, and so forth, there’s an awful lot of work to be done. With respect to power outages, the last number I saw is we’re down to 435,000 customers. That means homes and businesses without power. That’s a lot, but it’s down from 1.1 million in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (02:04)
In order to help with restoration and other things, I signed a proclamation yesterday in an effort to assist hotels across the state in housing first responders, essential health care employees, and utility workers who are restoring critical infrastructure in the state so that their rooms are protected so that they get to stay in their rooms rather than being put out so that those hotels have to honor any reservations that they had taken previous to the storm. Our number one priority right now is recovering from the storm. Obviously we can’t do that if the first responders and critical workers don’t have a place to stay.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (02:44)
And they have graciously come here literally from all over the country. We want to work with them to make sure that they have a place to stay that is safe and comfortable so that they can do their best work to restore power and to deliver the services and the goods that are necessary to assist all of the Louisianans in need today. I would further that with saying that if you are planning to come to Louisiana, for reasons unrelated to hurricane response at least, please check with your hotel before traveling to make sure that your room is not being used to house critical emergency workforce personnel. A brief weather update. The system that we’ve all been watching and that I have mentioned previously is not a threat to Louisiana. I think we’ve seen a little rain from it. It has about a 40 to 60% chance of development, but those areas that will feel any impacts from this storm system, 91L, will be further to our east. We are expecting additional rain today and maybe overnight, and oddly enough a continued heat advisory as well. The heat advisory is largely limited to those individuals who don’t have power. They don’t have the air conditioning to go in and cool themselves off. There is a front headed our way later this week that is expected to bring some relief from the heat, and the humidity, and the rain. That will be very welcome when it gets here. That’ll be especially true in the early morning hours when the temperatures could be in the low 60s, at least north of the lake.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (04:35)
State offices will be closed tomorrow in the following parishes, Assumption, East Feliciana, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne. Ascension is the only parish with state office closures today that will be open tomorrow. Of the parishes that I just mentioned, I can further say that the following 11 will remain closed through Friday, September the 10th. They include Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne. I was informed this morning at the UCG that more than 17,000 disaster unemployment claims have been filed related to Hurricane Ida. The best way for people to file their claim if they are able to do so is to file online by visiting www.laworks.net using the LWC HiRE portal. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can also file a claim through the UI Claims Center by calling (866) 783-5567. Although the storm came and went this past Sunday, CPRA has continuing de-watering operations in Laffite, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard. They’re also moving additional pumps to Terrebonne Parish to help remove flood waters, in Point-Aux-Cheux, and in Chauvin. They’re sending additional pumps also to Laffite today to speed up the process of floodwater removal.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (06:41)
Weather permitting, the Corps of Engineers will begin their first blue roof installations tomorrow. As of now, over 40,000 homes in Louisiana have signed up for this program. Residents can sign up for the program at blueroof. us. That’s online at blueroof.us. You can also call toll free, 1-888-ROOFBLU. There’s no E on the end of blue. And that number is 1-888-766-3258. Unfortunately, I have two more storm related deaths to report today, both coming out of St. Tammany. The coroner confirmed the death of a 68-year-old male who fell off a roof while making repairs to his home caused by Hurricane Ida. And then the death of a 71-year-old male who died of lack of oxygen during an extended power outage. This brings to 15 the total number of confirmed storm related deaths to this event.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (07:51)
We all so learned today that FEMA has approved public assistance permanent work, for Categories C through G for the following seven parishes, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, and Terrebonne. We don’t believe this will be a final list of parishes that are eligible to receive these categories of assistance. It’s permanent work, but the damage assessments are not complete. And we anticipate making a request for additional parishes to be added for Categories C through G in the coming days.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (08:36)
On that note, I’m going to turn it over to Tony Robinson, who is the FEMA Region 6 Administrator. He comes out of Denton, Texas, and he has been here on the ground with us in Baton Rouge since before the storm made landfall. Then he will be followed by General Keith Waddell, Secretary Marketa Walters, Dr. Shawn Wilson, and Steve Russo, in that order. Then I will come back up. Thank you.
Tony Robinson: (09:15)
Thank you, governor. I just want to thank you and Director Waskom and certainly your leadership team, for the great job that they’ve done and the work that they continue to do to serve the citizens of Louisiana. Your leadership has enabled us to mobilize federal resources to support the State of Louisiana. I also want to thank the first responders, the parish leaderships. All disasters start and end locally, and certainly some heroic efforts out there on the part of our parish officials. I’ve also traveled with the governor. I’ve been out to the impacted areas. I’ve seen the extensive damage that’s out there, and it is significant.
Tony Robinson: (09:50)
We understand that recovery is a stressful time for individuals, and it’s going to take longer than some would expect. But we need you to know that the men and women of FEMA are focused to making the widest range of assistance available to those who need it most. The most important thing that you can remember is the first step. If you have insurance, apply with your insurance and then call FEMA, 800-621-3362, to apply for assistance. Or you can go online to disasterassistance.gov. Or you can use our mobile app, the FEMA app.
Tony Robinson: (10:28)
A couple things that we’d ask once you register is please stay in touch with us once you applied. Follow up on your case. Keep your information up to date. If you move, if you have a change in phone number, those things are vitally important to us to be able to maintain that contact with you. And probably most importantly is, ensure any required documentation that we’ve asked for you is provided to us, especially in the case of insurance settlements, especially if you were denied for any type of insurance assistance. If you have insurance and you’ve not filed a claim with your insurance company, please do so. Then provide us with a copy of your insurance settlement, whether that’s an approval or a denial.
Tony Robinson: (11:11)
In the interim, you may receive a notification from us that says there is no decision. That does not mean that you’ve been denied. That just means we need that additional documentation for us to be able to make the determination on the types of assistance you may be available for. Survivors that are applying and receiving assistance to date have received more than $175 million from FEMA through our Individual Assistance Program. We also have survivors taking advantage of our Transitional Sheltering Assistance with more than 8,800 households checked into hotels, and that’s including more than 25,000 household members sheltered in that program. We have Disaster Survivor Assistance teams working in 14 parishes today. Those are teams that will go out in the communities, go door to door, go to where there’s points of distribution. They will help you register, provide you information about the types of assistance that FEMA has available. We’ll continue to grow that program as we get people in the area. FEMA’s also paid National Flood Insurance Program policy holders over $4 million in claims resulting from Hurricane Ida, and we expect those numbers to continue to grow. Our partners at the Small Business Administration have approved 222 loans for a total of more than $8.3 million. As the governor said, we’re partnered with the United States Army Corps of Engineer to launch the Blue Roof program. To date we’ve had over 42,000 people who have registered for that program. And we continue to provide commodities to the Louisiana National Guard who’s been a great partner in supporting those points of distribution.
Tony Robinson: (12:50)
We also have partners with the United States Department of Health and Human Services. They’ve deployed over 180 medical providers and other staff from the National Disaster Medical System to support triage and treatment of patients in Louisiana. And then our Corps of Engineer partners continue to work with GOHSEP and the Louisiana National Guard to assist in installing generators and do an assessment from generators. I’d like you to know that FEMA will have a long-term presence here. John Long will be the federal coordinating officer. He is a resident of Louisiana, and he will be here for the duration of this response. FEMA’s been here before Ida made landfall, and we’re not going anywhere. We’re here to make sure we work side by side with our state and local partners to help you in your recovery efforts. At this time I’d like to turn it over to General Keith Waddell.
General Keith Waddell: (13:45)
Governor Edwards. Well, good afternoon. I’d like to start off by saying my heart goes out to everybody that’s been impacted by Hurricane Ida. And I would like to thank the citizens that we’ve had the opportunity to interact with thus far, as well as our local, state, and federal partners, who we’ve had an opportunity to collaborate with and coordinate with as we’ve achieved unity and effort in dealing with Hurricane Ida. Our current overall strength is nearing 8,900 service members, and of that 8,900 service members, I would share that nearly 5,300 of those are Louisiana National Guardsmen and women. That represents a hundred percent of all the men and women that are in Louisiana National Guard in the state right now. And we do have, I’d remind everybody, we have 2,400 Guard men and women that are overseas right now in the Middle East and on the Southwest border.
General Keith Waddell: (14:48)
Additionally, we’ve got 3,100+ that have come from 14 other states to support us. Many of these states are local, are close to us. But we have had soldiers come from as far as Alaska to support our operations here in Louisiana. On the active duty side with our Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors, we’re at 470+, and those individuals have come from Fort Polk, our own Fort Polk, Fort Hood, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida and Gulfport, Mississippi. All these service members are working approximately 179 missions, and they’re doing that in 28 different parishes. We’re focused on seven lines of effort. Those lines of effort include commodities distribution, engineering, security, power generation, medical, COVID, and parish governmental support.
General Keith Waddell: (15:48)
What I’ll do next is briefly go through each one of those and give you the highlights of what’s going on with those major lines of effort. For us, our main effort is with commodities distribution. Right now we have 71 total sites. 67 of those are points of distribution. Four of those are hubs where they actually do hub and spoke operations into smaller communities within their respective parishes. Those operations are taking place in 15 different parishes, namely in Southeast Louisiana. I would like to share with you, if I could draw your attention to the board, the statistical information as far as distribution, and what’s happened up to this point.
General Keith Waddell: (16:29)
If you would like to keep track of this on a day-by-day basis, you can go to geauxguardla.gov. That go is G-E-A-U-X. We update that each and every day so you can see the amount of commodities that are being distributed to the citizens and the visitors to our state. I would add that we do have bulk water assets that are out right now, about a total of 51 of those. They have supported local parishes with tens of thousands of gallons of potable water to the citizens that are in their-
General Keith Waddell: (17:03)
… palatable water for the citizens that are in their particular areas. Engineer operations, you can look at the infographic that’s posted and you can see the amount of roads that we’ve assessed, or the miles of roads that we’ve assessed and cleared up to this point. I would tell you, we’ve also removed over 1,910 cubic yards of debris, and those numbers will continue to grow as we shift from working on primary and secondary roads, and we start working on municipal facilities. Well, we’ve been placed 182 super sacks, excuse me, in two different parishes, those being St. Charles and Plaquemines Parish.
General Keith Waddell: (17:42)
And if we go the next slide, I would like to show you what we’ve done in Lafitte. So what we’ve done here, we had a bridge that was inoperative. We worked with DOTD. We came up with a solution, this floating bridge, what we call improved ribbon bridge, and we’ve actually spanned the channel there. And if you look on both ends, you can see what we call ramp bays, and in the middle are our interior bridge bays. And we’ve basically connected this system together, which will allow the citizens to go to the other side. And current let plan is to leave that bridge in place for two months. So we’re very proud of this particular effort, and I think our citizens are going to greatly benefit from it. With generators, we’re proactively involved, working with GOHSEP and the Corps of Engineers on getting generators out to the parishes that are requesting them. Right now, we have 149 generators that are currently on mission. On the medical side, we have three teams that are currently working. We have one team of 31 working at the L’Oreal Convention Center, providing patient care and tele-med. We have another team at the terabyte general hospital who’s working in the emergency department there, and we have a smaller team in West Jeff doing patient care.
General Keith Waddell: (19:07)
With security, we have over 680 guardsmen working in 15 different parishes assist in law enforcement with roving and static security, and we take our cues. Because we’re supporting civilian authority, we work with local law enforcement on whether they need us to do presence patrols, work at traffic control points, or if it’s any other sort of security. Governmental support, we have a liaison that worked closely with the parish leaderships. So we talk to them about our portfolio and all the capabilities that we have within the Louisiana National Guard and the other services that are with us. We make recommendations. And based upon those recommendations, we may or may not execute the mission. A good example of that is the ribbon bridge that you see up on the board. That was a recommendation that our team came up with, thankfully, between the parish, the city, and DOTD. They were okay with us executing that mission.
General Keith Waddell: (20:07)
On the COVID side, we’ve been doing this for quite some time. Our numbers were down in terms of testing sites and vaccination sites, but we’ve increased those numbers today. We’re at 29 testing sites, 15 vaccination sites, and we continue to work in food banks, of which we’re in seven today. In closing, I want to remind you, once again, we do have 2,400 of our guardsmen have deployed overseas. I think about them each and every night and their families and are doing remarkable work overseas. And you can be very proud of what those men and women are doing there.
General Keith Waddell: (20:43)
I would also like to thank all the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard, the other state’s national guards, and thanks to those adjutant generals in those particular states and the governors for allowing them to come here to help us in our active duty teammates that are supporting Louisiana for Hurricane Ida operations. Without them, our families, our employers, and our civilian employees, we would not have been as successful as we have up to this point. I know we have a long way to go, but I’m very confident in the team that we have, the local, state, and federal partners that we’re working with, and all the citizens that we interact with, that we will get on the other side of this in due time. I’ll hold if you have any questions for me at the end, but I’ll be followed by Secretary Walters with DCFS.
Secretary Walters: (21:45)
Thank you, General. And thank you, Governor. DCFS is responsible for a couple of things during a disaster. We are responsible for the mass sheltering and feeding of our population. But even before that, we are more responsible for the children and youth that are in the custody of the state in the foster care system. So the very first thing we do when there is an approaching storm is reach out to every foster parent, every foster family in the state, and check in with them to make sure we know that they are following their evacuation plan, that they have pre-filed with us when they first became foster parents. And then we continue checking with them until we know every single foster child is safe in this state. And it does significant credit to our Governor that he asked about that and wants to know that those children are safe. So thank you, Governor, for that.
Secretary Walters: (22:51)
We started a foster parent support line that is up and running 24/7, so foster parents can reach out to that. And we also have 65,000 children in the state that live with family members or fictive kin. And these children are not in the foster care system, but they would be if these family members didn’t step up for their care. So we have a kinship line that is dedicated just to that staff, and these families are so critical for us. They keep children connected to their own family, their own history, their own culture, and they don’t have to come into the state system. The kinship line number, you can text to Kinship LA at 898-211, or just call 211 for all the information on that line. And then when we think about the sheltering work that we do, we don’t do this in isolation.
Secretary Walters: (23:50)
All the members of the team that you see standing in these press conferences, it takes DOT buses to bring people to the shelters. It takes Lang and the state troopers to have security there. It takes food vendors to help us feed. It takes the Department of Education to do respite care and dietary care. It takes the Department of Health to have their docs and their nurses there to do the medical care. We work with agriculture on the pets, because if you don’t leave with your pet, you’re probably not going to leave. We work with the [inaudible 00:24:29] for all the donations that people are so generous and want to give and want to help. And critically, we work with red cross and with 211 and the local OEP directors that make sure that these people are in safe and stable places. Right now, as 11 o’clock today, we have 3,180 people in the shelters. That’s about 23 shelters across the state that include local shelters, Red Cross shelters, and the state operated shelters. The shelter numbers are moving constantly, as people are coming in and out of the shelters. Our local OEPs are doing great jobs at opening shelters to bring their people home. And so the shelter numbers surge a little and then go back a little, because as those local shelters come up, we want those residents to go home so that they can be closer to their homes and their schools. If you have any questions about sheltering, the easiest thing to do is text 211. You can text LA Shelter to 898-211, or you can just call 211. We also have an evacuee connect line because we know that many people aren’t quite sure where their loved ones are. And so we set up a line that you can call in. And we can’t tell you where they are, but we will take the information, we will make the contact in the shelter, and then we will help that person in the shelter be able to reach out and call you. That line operates from seven in the morning until seven at night, and I think the number is up there on the screen for you to see that.
Secretary Walters: (26:11)
Now, the food assistance. There’s a lot of concern and confusion about the food programs that we run, so I’m going to talk about them in two different buckets. First, there is the regular SNAP program, what we know as food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. For the most highly effective parishes, those 18 parishes that we have talked about so often, if those parishes were out of power for 24 hours and 55% of the parish was without power, then we got automatic benefits to replace those SNAP benefits. So those SNAP recipients don’t have to do anything. Those benefits automatically get loaded on their card. Now, if you were in one of the other parishes not in that core 18, you can still apply if you were without power for 24 hours, which we know so many of our residents were. And there is a form that you have to fill out to do that, but that’s on our website, and I think that number is also up there.
Secretary Walters: (27:18)
There are right now about 200,000 SNAP households that have already been designated to get these mass replacements. That’s about 413,000 people in our state and over $47 million in SNAP dollars coming into the economy. And this is so important at a time when our economy is stressed because of the storm. This is going to put $73 million straight into those 18 parishes. Then DSNAP. Everybody knows about DSNAP. And we are well-versed in doing DSNAP in Louisiana and people know about it and they’re excited about it and they want to get it as soon as they can. So here’s what happens in disaster food. It’s a sequence. The pods that the General talked about, those very first points of distribution where they’re giving ice and water, that’s the beginning of food assistance to our affected areas.
Secretary Walters: (28:24)
And then the bulk household things that you can get from your food banks, all of that is coming from our same food partners that the FNS and Food Nutrition Services and the Department of Agriculture. And it staggered this way for a reason. You can’t do DSNAP immediately because there’s no grocery store, there’s no power, there’s no phone, there’s no technology. People have to be able to call in to get their DSNAP cards. And so it’s staged for a reason. We will begin DSNAP operations and do them in three phases. The exciting thing about DSNAP for the state of Louisiana now is that last year, for the first time during COVID, Louisiana pioneered the virtual process. You don’t need anything but a telephone to get your DSNAP cards. You call in, we run the DSNAP totally virtually, and then we do have to mail you your card.
Secretary Walters: (29:30)
So there also has to be, in that parish, there has to be a way for us to get mailed to you, because you’re not coming and standing in line and being handed a card right at the end. So there’s a process in place and it takes time for all of those reasons. DSNAP is coming. It just will come at the appropriate time. To preregister, we’ll help you get your benefits faster. You don’t have to, but it’ll make it easier if you do it quickly. And for that, again, 211, one of the best partners in the state. You can text LA DSNAP to 898-211. And all of this information is on our website. If you have any questions about, am I eligible? How do I know? Is it going to be in my parish? When’s it going to be in my parish? Then you can look on our website, which is also up there on the board, and get the information you need there.
Secretary Walters: (30:27)
If you have LA Wallet, that is also a fast track to getting your DSNAP benefits. We know there’s confusion. We know it’s a little different. It’s not like we used to do it in the old days when we had big box stores and took up all the Guard and the state police and everybody else’s time and energy. Now, we can do it virtually. And it’s so much easier and nicer because you can call from wherever you are. If you’ve evacuated and you have a phone, you can just call and register. So we want everybody to do that. We want them to pre-register because we do want to get food into all of our citizens hands. Thank you. And I will be Sean… I’m going to be followed by Sean Wilson. It would be hard for me to be Sean.
Sean Wilson: (31:18)
Thank you, Secretary Walters. And to echo what Tony said regarding the governor’s leadership, we support that and agree with that, but also want to acknowledge, as Markita laid out, all of the different cabinet officials that participate in various stages of this disaster, and it’s an amazing group to work with. And we’ll demonstrate that in a second. First, if you follow 511la.org, which is where we would encourage all citizens to learn about traffic and conditions of the road, we’re now tracking 13 closures across the entire state of Louisiana that were related to Ida. Initially, when the event occurred, we evacuated close to 700 plus thousand people we estimate in 24 hours safely with no deaths or major disturbances or currencies other than congestion, but we immediately began preparing for the aftermath. And in that aftermath, we have cleared over 4,200 miles of road, which was being pushed and shoved, basically taking immediate debris and pushing it to the side, to make things possible for first responders and emergency vehicles. That is effectively the beginning of our debris operation. Thus far on our debris operation, we have cleared over 350 shoulder miles of road that has been cleared of all debris related to Ida. And that includes elevated structures that we know are not going to have other debris brought to them. All total, that gives us about a 15,000 cubic yards of debris that’s been removed in the last two days as we just started moving that process up. Up on the screen, you see some do’s and don’ts about debris, because if it’s anything like Laura and Delta, we will be six months, if not longer, in this process of removing debris. And there’s some how to things that you, as the general public, need to do in terms of sorting debris and moving it out. And I know that’s difficult for folks in the middle of a disaster to think about, sifting through all of those hard things to deal with, but in reality, it expedites the process.
Sean Wilson: (33:22)
We have over 50 crews in the state of Louisiana within just the first two days. And that, of course, will ramp up exceeding based on our estimates of what we did in Laura, and 42 bucket trucks. That’s going to help thin out a number of the leaning and hanging branches and trees that you see. Going to 511la.org, you have an opportunity to hit the debris dashboard. That’s essential for parishes, because it will allow you to see where we’re passing, what amount of debris we’ve collected, when is your community perhaps going to be on the radar, but most importantly, that we’ve done our first pass and the second pass and a third pass. As a result of that, this-
Sean Wilson: (34:03)
Pass and a third pass. As a result of that, this is going to address all of the state routes that you might see debris and other items on that system. It’s updated daily at 6:00 AM and so it should be current. It went live yesterday after the first day of pickup on Saturday. Regarding bridge inspections, we have 1,339 total bridges that have been inspected to date. That’s 93% of the 1400 plus bridges in the impacted area. That’s significant because you can have a great road with a bridge that’s out and you will not be able to travel. And it’s incumbent upon us as lead safety agency to ensure that those bridges or passable and safe, particularly for first responders and folks still helping to clean up communities and bring them back to life. Regarding our movable bridges, 38% of the 42 movable bridges that have been impacted are open to vehicle traffic and marine traffic.
Sean Wilson: (34:57)
But 92% of them are open, especially to vehicular traffic to date. So that’s a very important factor. A number of our bridges get lifted up with surge and they may not seat properly. And so that requires some effort in addition to a number of the electrical units going underwater. And then signals, a very important part of safety and reconstitute and communities. 30% of the signals that are 1,418 signals in the impacted area. 30% of them are still damaged. 70% of them are functioning and have been reconstituted since the storm and or are running on generator power and waiting on additional power through Intergy and other energy providers. Regarding our ESF one function that has to do with evacuation and moving people out. We have over 209 buses on hand today, 185 coaches and 24 para-transits that have been involved in a number of moves pre-storm and after the storm, not just for our citizens, but also for our federal partners.
Sean Wilson: (36:03)
To date, we have moved over 3,800 individuals, as well as 88 pets. And just yesterday, we moved 221. A big part of that has to do with bringing folks back to their communities when the parish governments are ready to receive them. In regards to ESF three, which is our engineering function, we’ve partnered with national guard and all of our agencies, whether it’s DCFS or LDH with signs, signals, and other engineering support services, to make those processes convenient, safe, and efficient. And then we have some high level projects I’d like to update you on in terms of what we’ve been able to do. Emergency repairs on LA-1 have been completed. We have completed the initial push as a result of those temporary repairs. We’re excited about the temporary bridge that the national guard worked with a number of partners to install.
Sean Wilson: (36:56)
The department is accelerating the construction of the final permanent replacement of that bridge with all of our federal partners. We do expect to have an acro panel bridge up that will not be load posted within the eight week window. We’re trying to accelerate that even more. And then the department has also instituted a pedestrian ferry that will run until we see a need for it is no longer there in the Bertera area. And then on LA-23, we’re continuing to deal with water and are working with local law enforcement and parish leaders to provide pilot transportation for folks southbound. And then last but not least with regards to the LA-1 toll facility, tolls have still been suspended, continue to be suspended. We do not anticipate cash collections to come back up within the next month and a half to two months.
Sean Wilson: (37:45)
We do expect to see electronic collections proceed in a time shorter than that. And then my last statement in regards to preparing for future events, because the governor has been very keen on making sure we’re prepared. We have started a number of efforts to clean culverts, drains and box culverts in the impacted area to ensure that there are no residual debris left in the system. Should we have an unfortunate circumstance of another storm event and that’s going to occur for the initial remaining portion of our response to this. And subject to your questions, following the governor’s remarks, we’ll be here and then I’ll be followed by our executive council from LDH Steven Russo.
Steven Russo: (38:30)
Thank you, Secretary Wilson. Thank you, governor. Today, the Louisiana department has issued license revocation notices to the seven nursing facilities that are evacuated to the Calhoun street site in Tangipahoa parish due to Hurricane Ida. LDH has also moved to terminate the provider agreements from Medicaid with immediate effect. It is the opinion of LDH that all seven facilities have failed to properly execute post landfall emergency preparedness plans to provide essential care and services to their residents. Further, when LDH was making efforts to fully discover the site conditions post landfall, LDH, surveyors, and inspectors, instead of being provided necessary information were prohibited by the facilities and their owner from conducting and completing onsite inspections and surveys. LDH employees involved in ascertaining the safety and the welfare of residents were also subject to intimidation by an individual representing himself as a nursing home owner and providing false and or conflicting information at this time of crisis.
Steven Russo: (39:40)
Let’s be clear. There is no emergency preparedness plan that allows for residents to be kept in such an unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy condition. The lack of adequate care for these residents is inhumane and goes against the rules, regulations and applicable statutes. LDH did move to rescue the residents to ensure that they receive the proper care and services that they deserved. We did this by removing them from this site and working to transition them to licensed beds and licensed and certified nursing facilities that are continued to be in operation. This investigation next steps will now continue to be done again in a very deliberate manner where LDH along with our office of public health and our health standards section office of the state fire marshall and our other partners and government will look at pre landfall planning and preparedness. We will then turn and we will look at post landfall, post evacuation, and post transition to see whether or not the facts in those two areas would lead to additional supplementation of the revocations.
Steven Russo: (40:57)
LDH made appropriate referrals after discovery of the situation to the attorney general, to state police, to the office of inspector general, the East Baton Rouge parish Sheriff’s office, Baton Rouge City police, and the regional office of federal HHS in Dallas.
Steven Russo: (41:17)
This is an ongoing legal matter, so the LDH team is not going to be getting into speaking into the ins and outs of the investigation. However, we do understand that the public needs and expects transparency. However, we need to balance that with the fact that we do not want to do anything that will place in danger of the process of gearing up to present our case. I want to go ahead and clarify for you all the seven and names of the nursing homes and their location. South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab in the Lafourche parish, River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Maison Orleans Healthcare Center in Orleans parish, Park Place Healthcare Nursing Center, West Jefferson Healthcare Center, Maison Deville Home of Harvey, all three in Jefferson parish. And finally Maison Deville Nursing Home in Terrebonne. I know there was some issues about whether there was nine homes that were potentially owned by the owner, Mr. Bob Dean, to the best of our knowledge these are the final seven homes within Louisiana that are owned by Mr. Dean. Governor, with that I’ll turn it back over to you.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (42:43)
Thank you, Steven. Before I open it up for questions, I did want to finish up today with a COVID update. Today, Louisiana has her past 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Specifically, we added today 5,532 new COVID cases since last Friday. Hospitalizations due to COVID have trended downward. We’re very thankful of that. They’re now at 2,003. Obviously the concern is that that number will continue to again go up if in fact transmission and cases go up and that could happen as a result of all of the activities related to the response to Hurricane Ida, especially with various people moving in together and being in close proximity indoors for periods of time. Very sadly, we reported another 72 COVID deaths in Louisiana today, obviously tragic and sad. Thus far, the total number of Louisiana’s lost to COVID 19 since the start of the pandemic is 12,779. And there’s been a lot of focus on the storm and the deaths associated with it. And there should be. That number is 15.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (44:10)
And the same time since we’ve been talking about death since Hurricane Ida, we’ve had another 420 deaths related to COVID. And I say just to remind everybody, we are very much in a pandemic. We are very much in the fourth surge and there’s an awful lot that we can do to control transmission, to reduce transmission. First of all, get vaccinated. Secondly, do those things that we know work, like wear your mask when you’re indoors and in close proximity to others, wash your hands, physical distancing, and so forth. So I think this is a huge reality check for all of us. We cannot just be simply focused on our response to and recovery from Hurricane Ida right now, we’ve got to understand that all this is happening and in fact, everything that is happening in the state of Louisiana is happening during the pandemic. And it’s made harder because we know that Hurricane Ida has disrupted testing. It has displaced people, and we strongly believe that right now, the cases are under reported because of that.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (45:27)
We now have community-based COVID test sites in all regions. We’ve resumed community-based vaccination sites in all regions, except for region one, which is New Orleans area region three, which is south central area region seven, Shreveport and region nine on the north shore. Now, to be sure there are vaccinations available in those areas. They’re just not being administered at presently by some of the people who were administered before. But if you call your healthcare provider, if you go to the hospital, you can receive vaccinations. With all of that, well, let me say this. We’re going to aim for Thursday for our next press conference. We’ll let you know for sure if we’re going to be able to do one that day and if so, what time. And with that, I’ll take your questions and you’re free to direct your questions either to me or to any of the individuals who have briefed you this afternoon. Yes, sir.
Speaker 1: (46:34)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (46:45)
Yeah. And quite frankly, I have to tell you, I haven’t seen what specific criteria they are referencing. I know that at the outset, we were told that the Corps of engineers, which had been tasked by FEMA to run the program, would deliver the program in those parishes that it knew were subject to hurricane force winds and they came up with an initial list. Since that time, it’s my understanding they have added two additional parishes, those being St. Helena and Assumption because they did an assessment in those parishes. They went back and looked at the weather reports as well. And they also know now that there were hurricane force winds in at least portions of those parishes, where there was obvious need for the blue roof program. And so those parishes read it. It is further my understanding that assessments continue in additional parishes.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (47:43)
And so I cannot tell you that I have a concern today that may change once, once I know whether additional parishes have been added, but I do want to put another plug in for the blue roof program. An awful lot of people are obviously eligible for this program. It is completely free. It will be a professionally installed blue roof. Minor repairs to the roof can happen first and then they’ll put the blue roof on top and then they will strap it down in ways that will allow that roof, in most cases, to survive of the damage of additional storms. We saw that last year in southwest Louisiana. And so I encourage homeowners to take advantage of the program and also want to make sure they understand that has to render the home habitable, meaning if you’ve got extensive damage to your home and simply fixing the roof, isn’t going to allow you to live in the home. You’re not going to be eligible for it. It’s at no cost. So nobody should ever say, “Hey, you owe us money for that blue roof that was put on,” or have you pay in advance or anything like that. That’s not going to happen. And finally it is not contingent upon whether or not you have homeowners insurance. So we encourage people to participate in the program. And I might, to get back to your original question, have additional concerns. I don’t at the moment because I know that those assessments do continue. Yes, ma’am?
Speaker 2: (49:15)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (49:29)
So damage assessments started on federal and non-federal flood protection systems, whether they were levees, locks, gates, you name it, really from starting last Monday, when we went to see whether any of them breached. And in fact, at this point, we don’t believe any of these suffered a breach. There was some minor overtopping and overtopping can sometimes cause damage that has to be repaired, but we are not seeing extensive damage to our flood protection systems. There’s damage to the bubble gate, I’m sorry, the Bubba Dove flood gate in Terrebonne parish. And oddly enough, that gate was designed for storm surge coming in from the Gulf, being the primary force that would operate against it. The storm came in on the east side of the flood gate. And so what it primarily got was the wind as it turned and came out of the north because of the way the hurricane winds circulate and the storm surge actually acted on the gate from the opposite direction and revealed a deficiency in the engineering and design of the gate, which is going to be remedied.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (50:42)
I had this conversation with parish president Gordy Dove. And in addition to that, they know they have to be able to get that water out faster so that less force works against the gate. So they’re going to put in more pipes to allow the water to go out as well so that all of that isn’t directed against the gate. And those repairs are going to happen-
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (51:02)
… isn’t directed against the gate. And those repairs are going to happen relatively soon. And I know that President Dove understands how important this is because you never know when that next hurricane’s coming. To get you more information on that system, I should have had Chip here today. He is not here. And so he’s the one person that I can’t look over here and call on. But I will ask him to come to the next press conference and talk more about whatever damage we might be seeing across the entire system, federal and non-federal. Yes, sir.
Speaker 3: (51:32)
Governor, I have a question for [inaudible 00:51:32], if I may.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (51:32)
Speaker 3: (51:32)
[inaudible 00:51:32] may be a little bit [inaudible 00:51:32] 911 call logs from the warehouse [inaudible 00:51:54] residents outside the warehouse [inaudible 00:51:56] some just regular health problems, some concerned [inaudible 00:51:59] and they weren’t receiving dialysis treatment [inaudible 00:52:05] get on your radar [inaudible 00:52:06] when did y’all first get wind of what was going on there, to begin [inaudible 00:52:16]?
Steven Russo: (52:17)
The first thing that led to the evacuation on the 31st was the first post-landfall message that we received, probably around six o’clock on that morning. Now, as I had said before, right now, a very deliberative investigation is now going to be looking at all of the 911 calls that you mentioned and whatnot that were pre-landfall. And we will put just as much effort into that section of time as we did for the post-landfall time.
Speaker 3: (52:58)
And the [inaudible 00:52:59] the first message, you said [inaudible 00:52:59] around six o’clock in the evening [inaudible 00:52:59] that Sunday?
Steven Russo: (52:58)
The first one I had that came in, my records are showing is Monday, August 30th.
Speaker 3: (53:01)
Do you have any insight into what that call, that first call was in regards to?
Steven Russo: (53:08)
Yes, it was water intrusion. We had gotten word that approximately eight inches of water had infiltrated at least one or two buildings on that site. And so, that’s what swung us into action.
Speaker 3: (53:23)
So how [inaudible 00:53:24].
Steven Russo: (53:24)
Well, no, water intrusion is definitely a health concern. You need to look into mitigation efforts. You need to look into make sure that people’s health and welfare is taken care of, what are they going to do with those individuals. So, no, that is what put us on our radar. And it was a health concern.
Speaker 3: (53:41)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (53:50)
Excuse me. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 4: (53:57)
I have a question [inaudible 00:53:57]
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (53:57)
Okay. So those of you with questions for Mr. Russo, would please go ahead and just call on him while he’s up here, please.
Steven Russo: (54:08)
Thank you, Governor.
Speaker 4: (54:12)
[inaudible 00:54:12] clarify how we need to be aware how [inaudible 00:54:23] nursing home [inaudible 00:54:28].
Steven Russo: (54:27)
Yeah. Once again, that is where the focus is now going to shift. What I can tell you is there’s nothing per se noncompliant or illegal about moving that large number of folks to a site, as long as that site has food, water, linens, the basic necessities, and basically the minimum necessary components to provide for the health and safety and welfare of those residents. What the revocation letters that came out today focused on is the fact that regardless of the plan, the folks were there, did you in fact meet your requirements to care for the health, safety, welfare of those folks, and did you put them first?
Steven Russo: (55:15)
In the back.
Speaker 5: (55:17)
Yeah, Mr. Russo, you mentioned there was some intimidation at the warehouse. Are you going to speak to exactly what that was? And also, [inaudible 00:55:23] off the property [inaudible 00:55:28]
Steven Russo: (55:27)
LDH was kicked off the… Well, first of all, yeah, basically, the surveyor was out there. My understanding is, and the narrative will bear it out in the revocation letters, is surveyor had completed a tour. Of course, that’s when we knew that the situation had deteriorated. We wanted to continue our investigation, began taking interviews with the folks, trying to begin to assess. At that time, my understanding is that a site manager and/ or nursing home administrator came up and informed our surveyor that Mr. Dean was on the phone and insisted on talking to the surveyor. That, at that time, is when the surveyor informed us that Mr. Dean informed her to get off of his property.
Speaker 5: (56:17)
And how long did it take to go back?
Steven Russo: (56:21)
We went back… It was reported back to state office, and then a team was basically spooled up and sent back out the very next day, because we knew at that stage, we needed to get in there and commence rescue efforts. [inaudible 00:56:37]
Speaker 6: (56:37)
[inaudible 00:56:37] sounds as though 911 calls were being made pretty early along about this, so I guess I’m a little unclear on, it took from Monday to Wednesday before the warehouse [inaudible 00:56:56]. Why did it take so many days for the state to get in and [inaudible 00:57:02]?
Steven Russo: (57:01)
Like I said, we went in Monday, we looked at that the facility, we saw that conditions were going down, deteriorating. Set it back up again, as prudent folks would do, go back out Tuesday. That’s when we determined that the facility was definitely deteriorating, wanted to continue assessing the folks. And that is when we were informed that we needed to vacate the premises.
Steven Russo: (57:29)
I would also point out that throughout post-landfall, which you’re going to see in the narrative and what the facts I believe will bear out is that we were getting conflicting messages. We were getting text messages from the owner saying that they had a plan in place and everything was fine. And that is not what we were finding when we were on the ground. So by that Tuesday late, as we were told to exit the property, we knew we had to get in there and we responded immediately, and I believe those rescue efforts were heroic.
Speaker 7: (58:07)
[inaudible 00:58:07] people offered [inaudible 00:58:07] warehouse [inaudible 00:58:22]?
Steven Russo: (58:23)
I’ll have to check on that for you. I don’t know off hand. Yes, in the back.
Speaker 8: (58:27)
What was your response to [inaudible 00:58:30] saying that overall [inaudible 00:58:34]?
Steven Russo: (58:38)
I think I’ve already stated that with the revocation letters, I believe when you look at the narrative that we have so far, you look at the text messages that were sent, you look at the surveyor reports, I don’t think anyone could reasonably reach a different conclusion that the standard of care for those residents who are most fragile residents was not met, but I’m certainly not going to litigate the case here, that’s for sure.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (59:06)
Thank you. Okay. Any additional questions for me? Yes, sir.
Speaker 9: (59:10)
I have a question on COVID. How many COVID [inaudible 00:59:18] delayed as a result [inaudible 00:59:20]?
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (59:19)
How many have been delayed and rescheduled?
Speaker 9: (59:22)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (59:23)
Is Joe Kenner hiding out there? You’re over here. I don’t know if you’ve got an answer to that.
Joe Kenner: (59:29)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (59:29)
Yeah. Go ahead.
Joe Kenner: (59:33)
Thanks. I think the question was how many second doses were delayed. Is that… I couldn’t hear the whole question.
Speaker 9: (59:40)
Yes. How many doses [crosstalk 00:59:41].
Joe Kenner: (59:41)
Yeah. I can’t tell you an exact number, but I can tell you that, listen, we advise people to get the second dose if it’s Pfizer or Moderna on the recommended day. It’s 21 days for Pfizer, 28 days for Moderna. If you can’t make that because of a hurricane or because of a life event or for any reason, it is absolutely okay to get that second dose days later or even weeks later. Absolutely okay, and you do not need to restart the whole series. So for anyone that did delay or not be able to get to their second dose appointment, that’s okay. Just get it rescheduled and get it done as soon as possible. Okay.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:00:24)
Okay. One or two more. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 10: (01:00:27)
Governor, I know you had a meeting with Secretary of State about elections, and he is requesting [inaudible 01:00:34] into November instead. Have you decided [inaudible 01:00:38]?
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:00:39)
I have not. So, we did have a meeting earlier this afternoon. He was expressing his concerns about a number of things, ranging from the postal service to contacting commissioners, to employees of registrar, of voters offices, meeting deadlines with respect to new registrations coming in, so that they could be put into the system so that those individuals could vote in the upcoming election, to just a number of things related to the election machines themselves and the conditions of polling places and so forth.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:01:15)
He did make a recommendation that we postpone the election basically by a month, so that the general election date becomes a primary election date, and that we would have a date in December that would serve as the new general election date.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:01:34)
I did not make a decision, I needed to look at some legislation and some other things, and I’m not going to announce a decision here, but obviously one is going to be forthcoming soon because we have to take action one way or the other very soon, because either you go forward with the election is scheduled and the deadlines kick in literally right away, or all those deadlines get pushed back by a month. And so, I understand I don’t have much time to make that decision. And I do appreciate the Secretary of State and his team coming over and expressing those concerns.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:02:11)
A lot of it has to do with electricity being out, and especially in these parishes where we’re not sure if it’s going to be back in time for early voting and so forth, and the displaced populations. And we were talking about nursing homes a moment ago. There’s a number of things that the Secretary of State’s office and registrars do with respect to nursing homes that may still be evacuated. So all of that would certainly make it very difficult. And I have to determine whether it really makes it impossible and should cause us to shift the date. But you’ll get an answer on that soon.
Speaker 11: (01:02:45)
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:02:48)
And maybe that was it. Look, thank you all very much for your continued coverage. We didn’t talk thus far so much about post-storm safety. It’s obvious when you say that the newest death, one of the two, was an individual who fell off of his roof. Please be careful out there. Whether you’re operating a chainsaw or you’re fixing the roof, you’re doing anything. It’s hot. You got to stay hydrated. You got to cool off. You got to pace yourself. And if you can, wait. Wait until you can get some help. And make sure that you are checking on your neighbors and your older family members and anybody who lives in close proximity to you that might have special needs. Generator safety remains critically important with all of these folks across this Southeast Louisiana, who even as today, don’t have electricity. Make sure that you’re operating those in a ventilated area and not close to your house and so forth.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:03:51)
Let’s be very, very safety conscious, so that we don’t see the confirmed death total with respect to those deaths related to Hurricane Ida continue to increase. Let’s be good neighbors to one another. I know that this is very difficult. We do see steady progress being made every day, but if it’s not being made in a way that you and your household has benefited, then I understand that it’s not that relevant to you, but the electricity is being restored every day. More and more gas stations are having more and more gas. The water systems are coming back online. Boiled water advisories are being lifted. I believe we lifted the one for East Jefferson today, which will take a huge number of houses and put them back into full service with water. And that number is going to continue to get better as well.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:04:46)
But we know we have an awful lot of work to do. We know that everybody doesn’t have their electricity back. We know that everybody can’t go to a gas station in their community and gas up. We know that there are tremendous challenges around nutrition and so forth. And you’re just going to see the response continue to grow and ramp up every single day. And things are going to get better until at some point, we are fully recovered. That is not going to happen for quite some time.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:05:15)
But one of the reasons I wanted to bring my team today is so they could share more detailed information with you. You have a better idea of all the forms of assistance that are available, which ones might really be helpful to you and your family, and you also now know how to access those forms of assistance. And we will be announcing more and more efforts as time goes by.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: (01:05:36)
So let’s continue to work hard. Let’s be good neighbors. And let’s lift one another up in prayer, and I can assure you, we’re going to get through this. And we’re going to work hard every single day until we do. Thank you all. And God bless.