BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the fourth state to receive a federal disaster declaration because of the coranvirus.

The designation from President Donald Trump acknowledges the scale of Louisiana's outbreak and unlocks millions of dollars in federal aid for the state's response. Trump granted the declaration requested by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday night. That added Louisiana to a list that includes California, Washington and New York. Edwards says Louisiana has the third-highest rate of confirmed virus cases per capita.

Governor Edwards says projections indicate the New Orleans area will run out of healthcare capacity by April 4th. Mr. Trump hopes to reopen the economy by Easter, which is April 9th. But Edwards says Louisiana is in a long-term fight.

“I, like you, look forward to the day when we are past this. When that day comes, I don’t know, I can’t give you a time frame on that,” said Edwards.

The number of people in Louisiana confirmed to have the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus surged to nearly 1,400. The state health department says 46 Louisiana residents have died from the disease. There are 271 patients in hospital beds with confirmed cases and another 981 in beds who are awaiting results.

Edwards says the only timelines he will follow are those given by the medical community.

“When we maximize the use of science to inform our decisions, we minimize the role of politics in the decision, and that is what we are trying to do here,” said Edwards.

Louisiana has spent $71 million so far on direct COVID-19 responses.

Edwards reiterated his calls for “flattening the curve”, and says he’s encouraged by how serious the public has taken his call to stay home and limit interpersonal contact.

“I’m seeing leaders, political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders come out and embrace and endorse the measures that we have taken as being necessary and encouraging people to comply,” said Edwards.

 

(Story written by By MELINDA DESLATTE/AP & Matt Doyle/Louisiana Radio Network)