Governor Links Louisiana Spike in Virus Cases to Testing Backlog

A technician prepares Covid-19 patient samples for testing. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) — Louisiana’s governor said Thursday afternoon that a 42% increase in coronavirus cases reported between Wednesday and Thursday is likely the result of delays from commercial tests that are typically performed at drive-thru sites, indicating the people getting tested are generally healthy enough to avoid hospitalization.  

Governor John Bel Edwards said during a press conference held to address the steep increase that while the number of infections statewide continues to be high – there were 9,150 people infected as of midday Thursday, state health officials said – the rate of deaths and hospitalizations are beginning to match up with the national average.

The state has had 310 deaths from coronavirus and 1,639 hospitalizations. Those numbers come after two days of huge jumps in confirmed cases.

Edwards said Thursday the numbers are “jarring” but they have much to do with delays in test results, rather than an actual 42% increase in cases from the day before.  

The Democratic governor said the “logjam is breaking” and results are now being reported from tests taken days prior.

As with Louisiana, many people nationwide are waiting up to a week for the results of their tests, Edwards said.

“We have more and more commercial labs that have come online,” he said. “With private testing, those labs have greatly exceeded their capacity in what they are able to take in.”

As a result, test results are taking awhile to trickle in.  

For instance, Edwards said a single testing site reported Wednesday that it had 160,000 backlogged tests.

But regardless of delayed test results, the governor said the Covid-19 pandemic “remains an extremely serious public health emergency.”

He said he is following the federal government’s lead in extending school and business closures through April 30.

Edwards said that residents in the state’s two largest cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, have “actually had a very high level of compliance” with the stay-at-home and social-distancing orders he has issued.

However, in what may have been a reference to the gathering of more than 500 people at the Life Tabernacle Church in the small city of Center, Louisiana, this past weekend, the governor cautioned that if residents in more rural areas don’t start to take social distancing seriously, the state is going to have a “very, very hard time flattening the curve” of coronavirus infections and many more people will die.

“What we know is that we all have a role to play and we can determine individually, by our actions, how this can play out,” Edwards said.

On the topic of coronavirus deaths, Edwards expressed his sorrow over the loss of legendary jazz musician Ellis Marsalis, 85, from Covid-19 on Wednesday.  

“We lost a legend yesterday,” Edwards said, adding that Marsalis’ music “has left an indelible mark on the soul of New Orleans, and on the world.” 

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