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Trump approves major disaster declaration in Louisiana for coronavirus pandemic

The Hill logo The Hill 3/25/2020 Justine Coleman
a person standing in front of a brick building: Trump approves major disaster declaration in Louisiana for coronavirus pandemic © The Hill Trump approves major disaster declaration in Louisiana for coronavirus pandemic

President Trump on Tuesday approved a major disaster declaration for Louisiana as it struggles to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) requested the declaration in an attempt to secure federal aid for the state as he warned that New Orleans is scheduled to run out of hospital beds by early April. Louisiana is one of five states that has received the declaration amid the outbreak.

The declaration, which dates back to Jan. 20, comes as Edwards said in a press conference that the state is experiencing the third-highest rate of confirmed cases per capita.

Edwards praised the federal government's declaration in a tweet, saying he was "very appreciative of the federal government's expeditious approval of Louisiana's request and their support throughout our response."

With the declaration, the governor seeks reimbursement for state and local agencies' emergency response work, which has cost $66 million, The Associated Press reported.

The number of confirmed cases in Louisiana rose exponentially, to almost 1,400, after its first positive case was detected two weeks ago. The state's health department reports 46 people have died from the virus.

While Trump has set an Easter deadline as a potential reopening date for the economy, the Louisiana governor doesn't see that happening.

"Until we see the curve flattening and we can see daylight at the end of this tunnel, it's hard for me to pick a date on the calendar and say, 'By this date, we believe we're going to be out on the other side,'" Edwards said during Tuesday's press conference.

The president has declared major disasters in Iowa, California, Washington and New York, with Iowa's being designated on Monday.

Edwards issued the first stay-at-home order on Monday as several other states followed. He has also closed nonessential businesses to prevent more community spread.

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