La. governor warns state's health care system could be overwhelmed by early April

The La. governor talks about how coronavirus cases are expected to surge there.

March 29, 2020, 11:37 AM

As Louisiana emerges as a new hotspot in the spread of novel coronavirus, Gov. Jon Bel Edwards said the state now has the third-highest number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the United States, per capita, in just over a month.

"We remain on a trajectory, really to overwhelm our capacity to deliver health care by the end of the first week of April," he said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

Edwards also raised concerns about the state's hospitals reaching capacity soon during a private teleconference with governors last week, and asked President Donald Trump for federal resources.

The Louisiana governor said Sunday that staffing hospitals remains "very difficult," but ventilators are what the state needs.

"We've had orders in for more than 12,000 ventilators, some through the national stockpile and others through private vendors," he said. "Thus far -- over the last several weeks -- we've been able to get only 192."

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Health care providers across the country have warned of equipment storages, including critical life support, such as ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses.

Despite receiving shipments of protective equipment and hospital beds from the federal stockpile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday emphasized the need for ventilators and said he spoke with the White House Saturday night about the problem.

PHOTO: Left, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters, March 19, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. Right, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, in Trenton, on March 19, 2020.
FILE PHOTOS: Left, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters, March 19, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. Right, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, in Trenton, on March 19, 2020.
Melinda Deslatte/AP, via USA Today Network

"We had a very specific conversation with the White House last night about ventilators. That’s our number one ask. It’s our number one need," he told "This Week" Co-anchor Martha Raddatz in a separate interview. "And that’s the one that we are focused most on right now. We have a long way to go on the whole PPE front but we’ve made more progress in other areas than we have right now on ventilators."

Globally, more than 30,000 people have died from illness related to the novel coronavirus. More than 124,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. and more than 2,100 people have died, according to data from the the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier Sunday, Edwards announced the death of April Dunn, a 33-year-old staffer in his office. She died due to complications from new coronavirus.

In Louisiana the death toll is already beginning its rise with 137 confirmed, the second highest death count per capita in the United States, the governor said. The state currently has over 3,300 cases, the third-highest case count per capita in the U.S.

Raddatz asked about reports that Mardi Gras -- which was held as scheduled -- may have helped spread coronavirus in the state. Edwards agreed, but pointed to the messages coming from the federal government at the time.

"There was never any hint from anyone, to me, to the mayor of New Orleans, that there should be any consideration to downsizing or canceling Mardi Gras," he said.

"If you go back, you will see that the federal government was saying things were under control," he added. "And this is some Monday morning quarterbacking going on."

Sunday morning, the president signed a disaster declaration for Connecticut, where there are more than 1,500 cases and 33 deaths. It is under a new travel warning issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with New York, where there are more than 53,000 cases and over 800 deaths, and New Jersey, with its over 11,000 cases and 140 deaths.

Murphy told Raddatz in a separate interview on "This Week" that residents from his state were already not traveling much as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

"A travel warning, we're fine with," he said Sunday. "The fact of the matter is we are all in on flattening that curve, social distancing as aggressive as any states in America."

Trump raised the idea of an enforceable quarantine for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut when speaking to reporters earlier Saturday. The region has become a hotspot in the outbreak with at least 30,000 cases confirmed in New York City alone.

The president reversed course in a tweet later that evening, saying that "a quarantine will not be necessary."

ABC News' Kelly Cannon and Erin Doherty contributed to this report.

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This report was featured in the Monday, March 30, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

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