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11.20.20 – Minden Press Herald – (The Center Square)

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday said Louisiana is in the midst of its third COVID-19 surge, though he stopped short of issuing new restrictions to control the coronavirus, saying the current rules are adequate if followed.

“The effort in Louisiana is inadequate to the task,” he said. “I’m asking the people of Louisiana to rise to the challenge.”

Louisiana was among the world leaders in COVID-19 infections during the early days of the pandemic this spring. A second wave in June and July prompted Edwards to issue a statewide mask mandate.

Now the state’s s case load, relatively stable for about three months, again is on the rise. According to this week’s White House report, Louisiana had 172 new cases per 100,000 residents, which is below the national average of 294 cases but above the 99 new cases per 100,000 residents the state had the previous week.

“Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies,” the White House coronavirus task force says of Louisiana

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and to limit gatherings to their immediate households. Holding large gatherings at Thanksgiving could lead to family members not being around to celebrate Christmas, Edwards said.

“This is the beginning of our third surge,” Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said. “People’s mindset needs to change.”

Current mitigation rules limit crowd sizes and the amount of people allowed inside businesses. Barrooms in parishes with high rates of COVID-19 are supposed to be closed for on-premise service. Face coverings are supposed to be worn in public places where people are in close proximity to others who are not part of their households.

Edwards said vaccines for COVID-19 are the “light at the end of the tunnel” and might be available for frontline health care workers before the end of the year. Nursing home residents and others who live in congregant settings would be next in line.

Louisiana officials on Thursday reported 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 6,199. There were 929 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, an increase of 253 this week but still short of the nearly 2,000 hospitalizations reported at the height of the pandemic.

Louisiana has reported more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and more than 9,000 probable cases. Officials believe almost 186,000 COVID-19 patients have recovered.

David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.