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New Orleans May Soon Run Out of Ventilators, Governor Says (1)

March 29, 2020, 3:38 PM

Louisiana, which has the fourth-highest U.S. coronavirus death total so far, anticipates running out of capacity for breathing machines in the city of New Orleans within a week.

“We’re on a trajectory right now where we’ll not be able to deliver the care that people need when they need it,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Hospital bed space may run short by April 10.

In a separate interview, Bel Edwards said that the recent boisterous Mardi Gras celebration -- before the imposition of social distancing -- likely contributed to the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the state’s largest city.

“It’s likely that Mardi Gras contributed to the seeding of the virus in and around New Orleans,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, on Sunday singled out New Orleans as a developing Covid-19 epicenter similar to New York City, where some 672 people have died so far.

“we got a serious problem in New York, we have a serious problem in New Orleans, and we’re going to be developing serious problems in other areas,” the veteran infectious diseases specialist said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Louisiana needs more ventilators and has requested supplies from the federal stockpile and from other equipment manufacturers, Bel Edwards said. A request was made for 12,000 but so far only 192 have been delivered. “That is inadequate to the task,” the governor said.

Not Approved

“We haven’t yet been approved for ventilators out of the national stockpile,” he said. “I continue to press that case. I hope we will be cut in for a slice of what they have there.”

Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said the state is also encountering steep price increases as it buys face masks, with prices as much as four and five times higher than typical. The state has referred cases of price-gouging to its U.S. Attorney. in the state.

The state received 110,000 masks on Saturday and all were distributed, he said. The personal protective equipment situation “appears to be getting a little bit better,” Bel Edwards said. “We hope it continues to improve over time.”

Bel Edwards praised the administration and Congress for quick work on the stimulus bill, signed last week by the president, and said state his officials are studying the details on what Louisiana will receive. “I’m not ready to say it’s not enough.”

(Updates with Fauci in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Steve Geimann in Washington at sgeimann@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net

Ros Krasny

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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