New Virus Testing Sites Open in New Orleans as Cases Surge

Virus Outbreak Louisiana
The nearly deserted Bourbon Street, which is normally bustling with tourists and revelers, stands in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell have ordered all restaurants and bars to close except for takeout, and asked residents to remain home and maintain social distancing from others when outside, due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Additional testing centers for the new coronavirus were ramping up Friday in New Orleans, which has become one of the nation’s hot spots for the virus.

Tests at the city’s two new drive-thru sites, in the parking lots of a local theater and a university arena, initially will be offered only to health care workers and first responders showing symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office.

Nearly 400 people in Louisiana have tested positive for the virus, more than three-quarters of them in the New Orleans area, and 10 Louisiana residents have died from COVID-19, according to state health department data. But cases of the coronavirus are starting to show up in nearly every metropolitan region of the state, with positive tests in parishes in northwestern, central and southwestern Louisiana. The virus has shown up in 26 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, like other states’ leaders, offered dire warnings Thursday to President Donald Trump. Edwards said a surge in new coronavirus cases filling hospital beds could push the state past its capacity to deliver health care in seven to 10 days — what he described as a worst-case scenario if residents don’t actively decrease contact with others.

“Our trajectory is basically the same as what they had in Italy,” the Democratic governor said.

Edwards has closed schools, shuttered bars and gyms and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery only. He’s repeatedly called on people to stay home if possible.

The vast majority of people recover within weeks after catching the virus, and for most people, it causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness requiring hospitalization.

Because of limited testing, public health officials have said most of these early positive tests for coronavirus in Louisiana involve people with serious symptoms who need more intensive health care treatment.

Tulane Health System in New Orleans planned to shut down a suburban emergency room Friday to move staff to its downtown New Orleans campus to deal with “a surge of COVID-19 and suspected COVID-19 patients.” Other hospitals were canceling elective procedures to help free up space.

In addition to strained bed capacity, Edwards said health care facilities in Louisiana, like counterparts around the nation, were having difficulty getting medical equipment, particularly ventilators.


By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte

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