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'We Think It's The Right Thing To Do': Hospitals Rally Support For Louisiana’s COVID-19 Restrictions

Paul Braun
Gov. John Bel Edwards dons a mask after wrapping up his weekly coronavirus briefing. June 8, 2020.

Hospital leaders across Louisiana are getting behind Gov. John Bel Edwards and his efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak as some GOP leaders ramp up their resistance.

The head of Ochsner Health told reporters Thursday that the massive health nonprofit “100 percent” supports the governor’s mask mandate.

“We think it's the right thing to do. It is proven to reduce spread. It's critical that everybody adheres to it, not just people that feel like it's a good idea,” said Warner Thomas, Ochsner’s President and CEO.

On Wednesday, the head of another major hospital in the state sent an “urgent advocacy request” to employees, asking them to write to their legislators and denounce an ongoing effort by some GOP leaders to revoke the governor’s emergency declaration. The declaration gives the governor the power to mandate public health measures including business capacity limits and the mask requirement during the pandemic.

“This would have devastating impacts on our health system and our pandemic response,” wrote K. Scott Wester, the CEO of Our of Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, as reported by The Advocate. “Legislators must hear from frontline healthcare workers.”

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Landry released an eight-page memo condemning the governor’s mask mandate, the 50-percent capacity limit on businesses, and the order that bars only serve takeaway drinks as “unconstitutional and unenforceable.” He said businesses and police “acting as mask police could face liability if individual civil rights are violated.”

Landry has also opposed mask requirements as part of school reopening plans.

His memo says that the state’s public health emergency has “achieved” its aims to protect hospital capacity and resources, a claim that ignores rising coronavirus hospitalizations, statements from local health leaders in Lake Charles that they’re at risk of becoming overwhelmed, and the ongoing threat of the pandemic as it continues to spread across Louisiana.

Edwards called Landry’s opinion “politically motivated.” The opinion was requested by GOP lawmakers critical of the governor’s handling of the pandemic, including Rep. Alan Seabaugh, who authored the petition to override the governor’s emergency orders.

Seabaugh represents parts of Shreveport and Caddo Parish, where hospitalizations, COVID-19 cases and the rate of positive tests areis rising.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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