Trump, Edwards meet to discuss COVID-19 response

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President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Gov. John Bel Edwards and President Donald Trump discussed Louisiana’s new goal to test 200,000 residents each month during a private meeting in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.

President Trump commended  Gov. Edwards for his handling of the pandemic during a media briefing after their private talk.

“We’re going to be very careful as we open (the economy). Lots of governors are reopening, and I know you’re very advanced,  going to be very advanced, in getting it going,” Trump told Edwards. “We’re doing it very carefully.”

The meeting included Louisiana’s Office of Public Health assistant secretary Dr. Alex Billioux, Vice President Mike Pence, and key coronavirus task force leaders Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

“John Bel is a testament to it. Testing is one of the great reasons that you’ve been successful in Louisiana,” Trump said. 

The federal government agreed Monday to supply Louisiana with 200,000 testing kits over time that will allow the state to test 43 out of every 1,000 residents.

“This is the big piece that we’ve been looking for and with that commitment, we really feel much better going forward,” Edwards said. “We’ve obviously turned the corner in Louisiana and we’re in a much better place than we thought was even possible 5 or 6 weeks ago. That’s because of our local partners, federal partners, and hard work.”

Edwards faces some criticism from Louisiana lawmakers for extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15. 

Republicans in the legislature argue the state’s economy should re-open on a regional basis so thousands of Louisiana workers do not have to spend another 2 weeks at home, without work.

One lawmaker, Republican Rep. Danny McCormick, is so upset he has organized a  protest of the extension on Saturday at the governor’s mansion. 

Edwards maintains the state has not met the Trump administration’s criteria that would trigger the first phase of re-opening Louisiana’s economy. Per capita, the state currently ranks fifth or sixth in the nation for its number of positive cases.

“States have controlled and mitigated with the current number,” Birx said. “As you heard from the governor, he didn’t shut everything down. He has a (flattening) curve like this with still a significant number of Louisanans working.”

Before his trip to Washington, Gov. Edwards issued the following statement:

“I look forward to having a substantive conversation with President Trump about Louisiana’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our plans to re-open additional businesses next month, and our ongoing needs as we surge our testing capacity to 200,000 tests per month beginning in May. I am appreciative of the President’s attention to Louisiana and his support for our people during this difficult time for our state. Brighter days are ahead for Louisiana and by working together with our federal partners, I know we will get through this.

I will also thank the President and Vice President for the many ways the federal government has stepped up to help Louisiana as we have navigated the past few months, from millions of pieces of PPE, hundreds of ventilators, support for more than 1,000 members of the National Guard, field hospitals and Public Health Service teams, early support of mobile testing sites and access to federal health officials and other experts as we have made many critical, life-saving decisions for Louisianans.”