Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards To The Unvaccinated: ‘Do You Give A Damn?’

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards To The Unvaccinated: ‘Do You Give A Damn?’

Louisiana has a higher rate of COVID-19 infections than any other state in the nation and any other country in the world, which is a large place. “This is bad," Edwards said bluntly at a press conference Monday. “And it's not this bad anywhere else in the country today."

Louisiana is one of six states where COVID-19 cases have increased at least 400 percent in recent weeks: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee are the others. The Delta variant is also ravaging Florida and Texas. However, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is a Democrat. He isn't willing to let his constituents suffer and die so he can boast on Fox News about defending freedom from Dr. Fauci.

Monday, Edwards reinstated a mask mandate in all indoor locations, including schools and colleges, effective Wednesday. It will apply to both unvaccinated residents and the significantly smaller vaccinated population.

EDWARDS: We know that mask wearing when you are in public is one way to greatly lower your risk of spreading or catching COVID. Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is another. We have the tools we need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives, and I am pleading with unvaccinated Louisianans to get their shot as soon as they can to protect themselves. We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it.

Edwards had lifted the mask mandate at the end of April, when it was believed mitigation measures could be relaxed because people would take advantage of the free and safe COVID-19 vaccine. That didn't happen.

Louisiana's vaccine rate is as low as its COVID-19 infection rate is high. It's almost as if there's a connection somehow. Just 37 percent of residents are vaccinated. Only Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi rank lower — oh, and Wyoming, but that state defines social distancing.

Current conditions in the state are grim: Hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients, including children, and stretchers line the hallways because there aren't enough beds. Dr. Catherine O'Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge, declared, "These are the darkest days of our pandemic. We are no longer giving adequate care to our patients." Welcome back to 2020. It still sucks.

Edwards' mask mandate includes children five years and older, but he notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks for children between two and four. He dismissed the fiction that children can't get COVID-19 or are somehow immune to its worst effects.

Dr. Mark Kline, the physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans, confirmed the surge has heavily impacted children, and half the kids they've treated were perfectly healthy before contracting the disease. There hasn't been an empty bed at any of the ICUs in the Children's Hospital for weeks. Dr. Kline said that the number of healthcare staff out with COVID-19 is also rising. (The vaccine rate among the state's hospital staff is relatively low, as well.)

This was both predictable and preventable. It's why Edwards gave vaccine and mask resisters a well-deserved tongue lashing Monday.

EDWARDS: So, If you're a citizen out there or parish president or are sitting on a school board and thinking, "Man, I just don't want to do this," what public health expert are you consulting? What epidemiologist are you talking to? What data are you looking at? Are you looking at the mortality report that came out last Friday from the CDC? Did you hear a word that was said up here by these health care professionals as to what's happening in Louisiana? Do you give a damn? I hope you do. I've heard it said often that Louisiana's the most pro-life state in the nation. I want to believe that. It ought to mean something.

"Pro-life" has only ever meant "pro-control of women's bodies." It's easy to legislate someone else's moral choice and level of personal sacrifice. You can do that before your morning coffee. What we've seen firsthand over the past year is the same people who demand that a 16-year-old carry a pregnancy to term won't cover their damn faces with a piece of cloth to keep other people safe. They won't even get vaccinated, even after months have passed and it's obvious the vaccine won't kill you.

Edwards' mask mandate has the support of the state's educators who worried about patchwork decisions among the different school districts. The mandate will ensure that kids and teachers are safe when they return to school next month. The business community is also on board because you don't need an economics degree to understand that ignoring a pandemic won't improve your profit margin.

Edwards is a conservative Democrat but he exists in a fact-based reality. This is what separates him from Republican governors in southern states who act as if they're receiving kickbacks from COVID-19.

[The Advocate]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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