Death Toll from COVID-19 Surpasses Known Katrina Deaths, Governor Reports on Thursday

Governor Edwards speaks to the media on April 23, 2020

As of today, more Louisianians have died from COVID-19 than from Hurricane Katrina, Governor Edwards said in his April 23 press conference. While the number of deaths in Louisiana from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) passed 1,500 today, Governor Edwards urged Louisianians to be as diligent about the weather as about the risk of contracting COVID-19. Two citizens died from tornadoes that struck the state Wednesday evening, highlighting a pattern of unusually severe April weather as hurricane season is just over a month away. Because of the dual risk posed by the threat of a major hurricane during this pandemic, “the posture we’re in … is very different” than other states, Governor Edwards said. 

The State of Louisiana reported 481 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total to 25,739 cases statewide. Sixty-seven people in Louisiana were reported dead from the virus, bringing the statewide total to 1,540. A total of 1,727 residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, a decrease of 20 from yesterday, and the total number of ventilators required declined by 13 to 274 total. 

“It appears that cases have flattened and hospitalizations and vent[ilator] usage have decreased,” Governor Edwards reported. 

Keeping true to his commitment to answer citizen concerns, Governor Edwards answered questions from the public. One individual asked if the governor believed that high school sports would resume as normal in the fall. “It’s hard for me to envision a fall without football,” Governor Edwards commisserated. “But I don’t really have the ability … to see that far forward.” 

“What I can say with some confidence,” Governor Edwards said, “is it’s not going to look exactly the same as it did last fall,” noting that some social distancing measures will likely remain in place. 

Governor Edwards reminded residents that if they have lost income as a result of COVID-19, they may be eligible for Medicaid. “There may be individuals who were not eligible before but are eligible now.” The governor also noted that due to emergency statutes, no Medicaid recipient will lose coverage at this time unless they move out of the state.

And keeping in line with the general theme of disaster preparedness, Governor Edwards invited General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the U.S. National Guard, to speak to local media. Over 1,425 Louisiana National Guard soldiers and airmen are in Louisiana assisting with the state’s pandemic response, Governor Edwards, said, distributing supplies, managing the supply of ventilators, providing drive-through testing, conducting PPE training, and assisting state medical facilities. Because of the assistance of the National Guard, Governor Edwards said, “Louisiana is in a much better place.” 

Yesterday Governor Edwards reported that he would reveal the first phase of the state’s reopening next week. “It would be nice to go to phase one on May 1. We’re still evaluating whether we will meet the criteria,” the governor said today. “We will know more soon, and it would be my expectation that at some point early next week … we will have that announcement to make. While Governor Edwards touted the state’s decline in hospitalizations and ventilator usage, he promised to move forward in a manner that protects the public health as well as the economy. 

Governor Edwards was asked about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent statements. Sen. McConnell (R-Ken.) yesterday suggested that states needing more federal money should declare bankruptcy instead, making the statement under the heading “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” 

“I am very disappointed in Senator McConnell,” Governor Edwards said. “To say that he would rather see a state declare bankruptcy than receive help is grossly irresponsible. 


You can access the video of the governor’s press conference here.

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