Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards initiates a task force to aid impoverished communities to combat the COVID-19 racial disparity
COVID-19 remains to wreak havoc on the state of Louisiana, with over 100,00 completed tests throughout the state.
In a press briefing Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards disclosed information in regard to the COVID 19 cases conditions throughout the state. In what he called a “disturbing statistic”, 70% of the state’s death toll is African Americans, who only make up one-third of Louisiana’s population.
According to some national studies, the deep south, which is the poorest region for the African American community, is being hit hard by COVID-19 disease.
The New Orleans/Jefferson-Parish region remains the area with the most cases. African Americans make up 60% of African Americans of the city’s population, one of the highest in the country. New Orleans is not only the worst in Lousiana, but it is one of the worst areas in the United States.
New Orleans has now confirmed 5,416 cases of the virus and Jefferson has 4,678.
These large numbers linking to the African American community and COVID-19 required Edwards to implement a task force to educate and combat at-risk minority communities.
“We know that right now 70 percent of our deaths in Louisiana from coronavirus are African Americans. This is a disturbing trend and one that deserves our attention, which is why we are engaging a group of leaders right now while the crisis is still ongoing,” Gov. Edwards said.
“When we talk about health equity, we mean everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. The great thing is that the findings and recommendations made by this Task Force will help everyone better access quality care and improve health outcomes. It will also leverage our research capabilities and intellectual brainpower in a collective manner to tackle this daunting issue. I am asking our universities and research institutions to lead this effort.”
The prompt task is to make sure communities with health inequalities are met with useful information on COVID-19 safety and prevention.
The task force compromised of some of the Lousiana’s top University health departments will research for practices and protocols for treating communities with underlying medical conditions and health disparities and ensure testing availability and ease of access for all communities.
This Task Force will begin its work immediately and their research will result in the creation of a Dashboard on Health Equity.
As of April 12, 20,695 COVID-19 has been reported, with 840 deaths, which ranks Lousiana as one of the most infected states in the country. $23 million will be allocated to 36 federally qualified health centers across the state to help with hospitalization and positive cases.
Two testing centers will also be set up for first responders, healthcare workers, and people over 65. People over 70 represent the majority of positive cases and deaths.
Both centers will be located in the Jefferson-Parish area, which Edwards considers to be a first of it’s kind.
While the reported cases seem to be raising, the state is in line for a lower trajectory in hospitalization and ventilation use. Gov. Edwards credited pioneering medical practice to keep and ween patients off ventilators. These same practices are being recognized throughout the nation, according to Gov. Edwards.
He also credits the stay-at-home order and social distancing for the lower trajectory but does not want the statistics to be misinterpreted. He urged citizens to “keep their guard up” and continue to practice social distancing.
Gov. Edwards also informed the press, schools will likely remain closed for the remainder of the academic school year. Edwards collected requests from the Lousiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana School Boards Association to make the decision.
“Obviously there’s a really good chance that I’m going to quickly do what they’re asking me to do," he said.
Unemployment benefits will also begin to disperse April 13 through the Care Package Act. Edwards notified the press those who qualify will receive $600 week, including workers under file 1099, which includes barbers, hairdressers, etc.
Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), Secretary Ava Dejoie added that the number of citizens seeking unemployment is “unprecedented” with over 186,00 applicants.
“There will be delays as we are working to help each and every citizen,” Dejoie said. “We are doing our absolute best.”