Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he is wary of a COVID-19 spike as displaced Hurricane Laura victims scatter across the state and first-responders and volunteers flow into the most damaged areas to help.
The concern comes as more than 300,000 households and businesses remain without power and another 176,000 remain without running water as victims dig out from the damage under a blistering summer sun pushing the heat index to 108.
Edwards’ concern comes just as the state’s case numbers drop below the red line. Louisiana reported its lowest single-day number of new COVID-19 cases — 326 — since June 8 and the White House Coronavirus Task Force reduced the state from red to yellow in new infections.
“We’re certainly doing better,” Edwards said.
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But he said residents must be especially vigilant in heeding mitigation measures like masking and social distancing to stem the spread and avoid a spike.
“I’m nervous as it is with all of the movement (caused by the storm),” Edwards said. “We’re really concerned about that.”
Meanwhile, state, federal and volunteer agencies continued to mobilize to help victims. Hurricane Laura’s Louisiana death toll remained at 14.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has opened a reception center open 24 hours a day for evacuees seeking shelter.
Evacuees must go to the reception center to be placed in a non-congregate shelter — primarily hotels — as one becomes available. Anyone who arrives directly at a hotel will not be admitted and will be required to go to the reception center.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services is also launching a program for families to locate loved ones who evacuated from Hurricane Laura to state-provided hotel rooms.
The Army Corps of Engineers is activating its “Operation Blue Roof” program to provide and install fiber-reinforced blue tarps to cover damaged roofs until arrangements can be made for permanent repairs.
To be eligible the houses must be inhabitable after installation.
“It’s essential to our overall housing plan,” Edwards said.
The governor also continued to encourage those in the six parishes included in President Trump’s major disaster declaration to apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Those parishes are Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vernon. Edwards has asked for 17 more parishes to be included.
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FEMA assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property loss and other programs to help people and businesses recover.
Follow Greg Hilburn on Twitter: @GregHilburn1