(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards stated once again Friday that participation in the state’s COVID-19 contact tracing program is voluntary.
And again he urged residents to cooperate with the program, saying it is crucial in containing the spread of the disease.
“I would encourage people to think not along the lines of what you have a right to do or a right not to do,” Edwards said. “Think about what is the right thing to do.”
“Contact tracing” is a process commonly used in dealing with infectious diseases. When someone tests positive, public health officials ask the patient who they have been in contact with, then attempt to contact those people and ask them to take steps to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Republicans in particular have been wary about government forcing residents to participate in contact tracing. During a committee debate Thursday, legislators amended the proposed state operating budget to ban funding for mandatory contact tracing. On Friday, the state House of Representatives approved a resolution directing the governor not to penalize anyone for not participating in contact tracing.
Edwards said state government has hired 450 contact tracers for the COVID-19 pandemic, all of whom will be trained to keep the information private. He said no one will be penalized for not participating in the process.
Edwards said 4,566 vials of remdesivir, a drug that has shown promise in treating COVID-19, have been distributed to 44 hospitals based on their number of cases. Another shipment of 3,828 vials arrived Friday and will be distributed to 47 hospitals. Treatment requires seven vials per patient on average, he said.
As of noon Friday, 2,545 Louisiana residents had died from COVID-19, state health officials reported. Almost 37,000 cases had been reported, and officials believed more than 26,000 of those patients had recovered.
There were 867 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, officials said, which Edwards said was the lowest total since March.
Edwards urged residents to continue to practice mitigation strategies, such as avoiding crowds, maintaining distance from people who are not part of your household and wearing masks in public. Louisiana has loosened some of the business restrictions meant to contain the spread of the disease and Edwards said he will consider eliminating more restrictions early next month.
“The gains are important, but they are fragile,” he said. “In many ways, the virus is still in control.”