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Louisiana is ‘blind’ to coronavirus as Hurricane Laura shutters testing sites


While Louisiana seems to have prevented the worst projections for Hurricane Laura, the storm is disrupting the state’s coronavirus response at a very essential time as colleges reopen, state officers and epidemiologists stated.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned earlier this week that the storm would disrupt the state’s coronavirus response efforts.

“The challenge is we’re basically going to be blind for this week because we’re having to discontinue much of our community-based testing,” he stated Wednesday, including that federally funded “surge testing sites” are additionally closed. “This comes at a particularly bad time for us because it’s two to three weeks since we resumed K-12 education and since we started moving young people back on to college campuses.” 

The storm prompted tens of 1000’s of individuals from Southwest Louisiana, which is the a part of the state the place the best share of Covid-19 assessments are presently coming again optimistic, to flee throughout Louisiana, Edwards stated. He added {that a} mass motion of individuals like that might unfold the virus to new communities throughout the state.

“We will proceed to work with our state, tribal and native companions as they plan for execution of evacuation and sheltering operations in a COVID-19 atmosphere,” a spokesperson from the Federal Emergency Management Agency stated in an announcement to CNBC, including that “FEMA has not received any requests to surge COVID-19 PPE to states affected by Hurricane Laura.”

The Louisiana Department of Health didn’t reply to CNBC’s request for remark.

The state is offering short-term shelter to greater than 2,100 evacuees, however greater than 1,900 of them are being housed in “non-congregate shelters,” such as resort and motel rooms, Edwards stated. He added that evacuation facilities had been used solely as a final resort. In whole, greater than 500,000 individuals in Texas and Louisiana confronted evacuation orders due to the storm.

“My biggest concern right now on Covid is that we don’t have the robust testing taking place across the state right now that we need in order to know if our positivity is inching up or whether we have more cases,” he stated at one other information briefing on Thursday. “We really need to get back to our testing just as soon as we possibly can.” 

The shuttering of testing facilities comes as testing throughout the state was already falling from its peak in early August. The state was averaging greater than 20,000 Covid-19 assessments per day initially of the month, in accordance to information from Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer challenge based by journalists at The Atlantic journal. Testing within the state is now down to about 15,000 a day, based mostly on a seven-day common, in accordance to Covid Tracking Project’s information. 

Testing is additionally down nationally, falling from a seven-day common of about 814,000 assessments per day at its peak in late July to a median of just below 700,000 assessments per day, in accordance to Covid Tracking Project’s information. Some federal officers and epidemiologists have attributed the drop in testing to a couple of components, together with disruption from pure disasters such as Hurricane Isaias in Florida and fewer demand for testing within the U.S.

Many public well being specialists say that widespread testing all through the inhabitants will assist detect pockets of outbreaks earlier than they spill over into uncontrolled epidemics. 

In Louisiana, instances seem to be down. The state has reported 688 new instances of the virus, on common, over the previous seven days, down greater than 10% in contrast with every week in the past, in accordance to a CNBC evaluation of knowledge compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Jeffrey Shaman, director of the Climate and Health Program at Columbia University, who co-authored a examine earlier this month quantifying the unfold of Covid-19 due to hurricane evacuations, stated Hurricane Laura will possible “facilitate the spread” of Covid-19.

“The pandemic provides a backdrop, upon which normal evacuation procedures have another issue to contend with,” he stated in a cellphone interview with CNBC. “The more people that you have on the move, the more people who are displaced, the more there’s going to be this disruption and mixing of people, some of whom may have the virus. That’s going to facilitate some transmission.”

With testing sites down, well being officers may not pay attention to new outbreaks and extra unfold for weeks after an infection has seeded itself in a brand new space, he stated.

“It’s a very complicated landscape where the data themselves may be disrupted,” he stated, “and the data collection may be disrupted in a way that prevents us from really knowing what the signal is and what actually happened.”

— CNBC’s Emma Newburger contributed to this report.



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