Coronavirus: Louisiana on pace to become ‘the next Italy’ as governor warns hospitals could be overrun in a week

Rate of Covid-19 cases rivals those around the world while state awaits Donald Trump's disaster declaration for critically needed federal aid

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 24 March 2020 19:09 GMT
Coronavirus in numbers

Within the first two weeks of March, Louisiana had "the fastest growth rate" of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, as the governor warns that the state could become "the next Italy" unless dramatic containment efforts are supported by immediate federal aid.

The state has confirmed more than 1,300 confirmed Covid-19 cases and at least 46 deaths, as of Tuesday, with roughly half of all cases coming from New Orleans and neighbouring Jefferson Parish.

With a population of fewer than 400,000 people, the rate of infection in New Orleans rivals counties across New York state despite having a fraction of the population. New Orleans also has more than double the number of total cases than all of Los Angeles county, which is more than 20 times larger.

Within a week, the state had reported more than 1,000 new cases after reporting fewer than 100, a "ten time increase in seven days", Governor John Bel Edwards said at a press conference on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the governor's office confirmed it has requested the president approve a major disaster declaration for the state to fast-track millions of dollars in federal relief to support the state's overwhelmed resources. Governor Edwards said at the current rate, the state's healthcare capacity could be overrun by the beginning of April. There are only 381 intensive care beds available.

He has issued a statewide "stay-at-home" order for its 4.6m residents

Governor Edwards warned: "There is no reason to believe that we won't be the next Italy ... In the last two weeks our growth rate has been faster than any state or country in the world. ... This is why it matters."

Despite the sobering data set to dramatically impact a relatively small population, the state has largely been left out of the national response, with Donald Trump mobilising federal relief to New York, California and Washington.

In his request to the White House, the governor said the state has incurred more than $65.6m in costs to battle the virus and contain the outbreak.

He said: "We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers."

Louisiana's health secretary Rebekah Gee warned on Sunday that the state "needs to be a priority" as the federal government prepares aid for hard-hit cities and states.

She said: "Louisiana needs help. We need more people. We need more creative solutions, and we need more assets to be deployed here so we can solve this problem."

The state's labour secretary Ava Dejoie also reported that 71,000 people filed new unemployment applications last week -- a spike of nearly 50 times the weekly average.

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