Louisiana has emerged as one of the states most severely affected by coronavirus and the New Orleans area in particular, has become a hotspot for the spread of the disease. As in other areas, African Americans have been disproportionately affected and in response, Gov. John Bel Edwards is launching a task force to examine why the community has been so harshly impacted.
African Americans make up about one-third of Louisiana’s population, but 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths there. The initiative, dubbed the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, will be charged with getting education to communities that are at higher risk for coronavirus spread and undertake research.
"The immediate assignment for the task force is to make sure communities with health disparities are blanketed with good information on COVID-19 safety and prevention," Bel Edwards said. "I'm asking our universities, research institutions and medical community to lead this effort."
According to figures from the state’s health department, currently there are 21,518 cases of coronavirus diagnosed with 1,013 deaths reported throughout Louisiana. The New Orleans area is the hardest hit in the state, particularly Orleans and Jefferson parishes with 5,788 and 276 deaths; and 5,188 cases and 210 deaths, respectively.
Bel Edwards said he wants to ensure that minority communities are well-informed regarding coronavirus. The messaging, he says, won’t only deal with hygiene and social distancing, but also the risks that come with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other dangerous ailments and how proper medication and diet can help. Ultimately, he is trying to have the information “put you in the best possible position to withstand this disease should you contract it.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana's presidential primary and other elections set for the spring have been delayed until July and August due to mitigation efforts, local newspaper The Advocate reported. The delays are part of a plan by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin that would call for more early voting and absentee balloting.
For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.