Louisiana has the fastest rate of growth rate of coronavirus cases in the world, the state’s Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a news conference on Sunday, citing a University of Louisiana Lafayette study.
Graphs provided to CNN by the governor’s office show the rate of growth in the state on a steep upward trajectory similar to that of hard-hit Italy and Spain.
The state has the third highest number of cases per capita in the country — behind New York and Washington state, Edwards said.
Within a week, Louisiana has gone from reporting fewer than 100 cases to more than 1,000 as of Monday night.
“That’s a ten time increase in seven days,” Edwards said.
Twenty people have died in Louisiana after becoming infected with coronavirus.
The governor said the state could run out of healthcare capacity within seven to 10 days should spread continue as it has.
“There is no reason to believe that we won’t be the next Italy,” he warned. “We have the fastest growth rate of confirmed cases in the world in the first 13 days right here in Louisiana.”
“In the last two weeks our growth rate has been faster than any state or country in the world,” Edwards said. “This is why it matters.”
“If we want to flatten the curve we have to take more aggressive mitigation measures now and limit social contact now,” he said. “We’ve got to take action now.”
Deaths linked to cluster at retirement community
There were 1,172 cases of coronavirus across 36 Louisiana parishes as of late Monday night.
That number includes 24 confirmed cases at Lambeth House, a retirement community in New Orleans, said Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary of health for the state’s Office of Public Health.
Seven deaths have been linked to the cluster of cases at Lambeth House, Billioux said.
Christina Fay, board director of Lambeth House, said in a statement to CNN last week that the staff and community was devastated and grieving for the families of those who died at the facility.
“Lambeth House is truly a community of people who care deeply about one another. Any single death of a resident is felt very acutely by one and all,” Fay said. “The intensity of sadness that accompanies what our community is currently enduring is almost indescribable.”
Billioux said seven nursing homes in the state have reported cases of coronavirus. The health department is in daily contact with the facilities after they report people with symptoms and will continue to monitor the situation, Billioux said.
Restrictions are now being placed on visitors to such communities as part of an order issued by Edwards on Sunday for residents to stay home.
Residents ordered to stay at home
Edwards is one of eight governors to issue a statewide stay at home order in an effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading. The order will take effect for Louisiana residents on Monday and end on April 12.
As part of the order, non essential businesses, including personal care and entertainment venues must close by 5 p.m. Monday night.
Edwards said state buildings would remain open for essential work but would be closed to the public.
Pharmacies, grocery stores and doctors’ offices will remain open, Edwards said. Restaurants also will remain open for drive- through, delivery and take out options only.
Faith leader defies orders
Despite a previous order issued last week telling people not to hold large gatherings, one faith leader has continued to hold services, telling his parishioners that “the church is a hospital for the sick” during a service last week.
Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge continued to hold large services this weekend outdoors.
Gov. Edwards told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday night that all leaders, including faith leaders, have a responsibility to the public to maintain safe distance and stop the spread of the virus.
“I am a person of faith,” Edwards explained. “I believe in the power of prayer. But I also believe in science. In this case I choose to do what science tells me while I pray for the best outcome.”
“I am encouraging all leaders…to do what they can to assist me,” Edwards said. “It is irresponsible for people to encourage people to engage in activities that have measures that have been implemented by social distancing.”
“Now it’s time for all of us to be good neighbor and you can do that by making sure you are not infecting people unnecessarily,” Edwards said.
Special police team to break up gatherings
Before Edwards’ order, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, on Friday, issued a stay at home order for her city, closing businesses and banning gathers of more than 10 people.
“If you don’t have any essential function or cannot safely maintain social distancing, you need to stay home,” Cantrell said at a Friday news conference. “Don’t look for ways for the rules to not apply for you … stay home.”
A special police team is being created to help enforce the order. The team will respond to 311 calls reporting large gatherings and any businesses that don’t comply could lose their license to operate within the city permanently, according to a tweet from the New Orleans Police Department.
Another tweet from NOPD said that the department would take more incident reports by phone when appropriate to improve social distancing between officers and citizens. If a citizen prefers an in person response an officer will be dispatched, the tweet said.