Federal Government Setting Up New Louisiana Virus Test Sites

Virus Outbreak Louisianas Hope
FILE - In this April 2, 2020 file photo, Cindy Morris, left, and Swarnamala Ratnayaka prepare RNA for testing for the new coronavirus at the molecular pathology lab at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The federal government is setting up four new drive-thru coronavirus testing sites in Louisiana’s capital city, which is seeing spikes in confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease.

Baton Rouge’s mayor, Sharon Weston Broome, said the sites will open Tuesday and operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a goal of testing as many as 5,000 people a day. The federally-supported test locations, which will use a self-administered nasal swab, will remain up and running through July 18.

“This rapid increase in testing is one of the most important things we can do right now to protect public health and our local economy. Knowing if you have COVID-19 and what to do to prevent further spreading the virus will save lives and lessen the economic impact in our community,” Broome said in a statement. “I implore our residents to take advantage of these testing sites if they have symptoms or were exposed to COVID-19.”

Broome enacted a mask requirement last week for anyone entering a business around the city, as the region sees sizable increases in virus cases and hospitalizations, including an outbreak traced to a cluster of bars near the Louisiana State University campus.

The new testing sites — located at LSU, Southern University, Cortana Mall and the local fairgrounds — will be supported by the Louisiana National Guard and other state agencies. Results are expected to take three to five days, according to the mayor’s office.

As businesses reopened around Louisiana, the state has seen a sharp uptick in confirmed cases of COVID-19 and patients who are hospitalized with complications from the disease.

The state isn’t near the height of its outbreak in April, when public health officials worried that hospitals would run out of space. But Gov. John Bel Edwards and others have warned that trends are pointing in that direction, with too many people ignoring the precautions that slow infections.

Nearly 3,200 Louisiana residents have died from COVID-19, according to the state health department.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.

Louisiana has more than 65,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Public health experts say the actual infection rate is expected to be much higher because many people don’t experience significant symptoms and others never get tested.

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