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6.4.20

LA has virus costs under control ... for now

The costs Louisiana incurs in battling the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic keep adding up, potentially presenting a growing budgetary problem.

Louisiana’s condition deteriorated rapidly so that as of today it ranks third in both infection rate and deaths per capita, prompting Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards only two weeks after the first confirmed case to ask for and have granted a disaster declaration from Republican Pres. Donald Trump. This allows the state to have 75 percent of disaster-related costs reimbursed by the federal government.

The problem is, these have accumulated quickly. As of this morning, the state had spent almost $569 million on its response. This means it and local governments owe in the neighborhood of $142 million.

5.4.20

Failing LA virus strategy needs drastic change

When Louisiana found itself unprepared to test aggressively for the Wuhan coronavirus as a proactive strategy to quarantine or treat, the fallback reactive strategy that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards had to resort to assumes personal behavior will flatten the infection curve. But it’s not working well, precisely because leadership failed to prepare for the onslaught.

Edwards has rolled the dice on exhorting the citizenry to minimize personal contact among themselves in order to break the back of the state’s infection rate that not only stubbornly refuses to subside, but also tries to shift higher. His strategy also treats the state as one, despite the enormously higher rates of infection and death in the New Orleans area. This weekend, he plead some more for the public to follow social distancing guidelines as directed from his office, saying strict adherence to these could make a big difference.

Not really. It would help, but only to turn a prolonged large disaster in certain parishes into a lesser, somewhat shorter disaster in these. Had Edwards acted differently a month ago, it never would have mutated into a crisis of these proportions.

3.4.20

Edwards mistakes exacerbated LA virus plight

While other states have begun “flattening the curve” of Wuhan coronavirus cases, Louisiana hasn’t yet. Policy mistakes by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and big city mayors explain why.

Two errors stand out in particular, although in retrospect avoiding one would have demanded expert crystal ball-reading skills even as it fed into the other. That was failure of attenuation, if not cancellation, of Carnival parading and celebrations. The first U.S. case cropped up in Washington on Jan. 19, and when Carnival started in earnest on Feb. 14 the country as a whole had just a baker’s dozen of cases, a number that barely rose by Carnival’s close on Feb. 25.

Edwards engaged in some minor finger-pointing in this regard when queried about his inaction. “There was never any hint from anyone to me … that there should be any consideration to downsizing or canceling Mardi Gras,” he told a national television audience. On Mar. 11, after Louisiana’s first case popped up Mar. 9, he issued the first of a series of proclamations that increasingly have confined citizens and closed businesses.

2.4.20

LA virus testing, death data don't add up

With little attention or fanfare, this week Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards extended a series of proclamations limiting gatherings and commercial activity to stave off the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. He did this using data that appears increasingly questionable.

Observers such as MacAoidh already have pointed out not only errors in data collection that affect perceptions about the disease’s contagion in Louisiana, but also have noted timing involved in releasing specific numbers on specific days fits a pattern designed to produce messaging that promotes a political agenda. Certainly, continuation of the Edwards bans throughout the entire state idles further a Legislature chomping at the bit to enact policy contrary to Edwards’ liking while it embolden actions comporting to his general philosophy of expanding government through increased taxation and spending.

The extension again raises the question of whether a blanket approach serves the state’s best interest. The figures for today continue to show the virus, at least in a critical form, remains largely a New Orleans-area phenomenon. Orleans, Jefferson, and their surrounding St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, LaFourche, and St. Charles Parishes have but 28 percent of the state’s population but 69 percent of the cases and 73 percent of the deaths.

1.4.20

Order defiance charge may end political careers

The legal drama starts, and it might cost some political careers along the way without accomplishing much of anything.

Tuesday, Central’s Life Tabernacle Church minister Tony Spell received summons from the Republican Police Chief Roger Corcoran, with six charges of violating R.S. 29:724.

That law gives the governor emergency powers including the issuance of proclamations to limit gatherings, and lists penalties up to a $500 fine and six months imprisonment. Spell allegedly violated it when he preached to considerably more people on several occasions than allowed since Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards began issuing orders with limitations because of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

It didn’t change anything. That night, Spell conducted regularly-scheduled services before another crowd, which produced another set of summonses. And he’ll keep on going until he’s cuffed and jailed, which would be a public relations disaster for any politician involved.

31.3.20

Will Facebook cushion Advocate from its ills?

Will Facebook come to the “rescue” of Louisiana’s home of “there’s more to the story”™ and “reporting you can trust?”

Undoubtedly, snickers arose in newsrooms from Shreveport to Thibodaux and among news consumers from Vinton to Mound when reports surfaced that the source of these phrases to describe itself, the Baton Rouge Advocate, which includes allied operations in Ascension, Lafayette, and Orleans Parishes and several weekly newspapers – with competition from another daily newspaper only in Lafayette – sent out an e-mail plea to its subscriber base to “donate” money to it. This came in the wake of staff cuts and furloughs about a week after Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first of three proclamations that progressively have brought a fair portion of the state’s economy to a standstill to combat encroachment of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Understand that, as the media landscape has changed with the advent of broadband delivery via Internet, cable, and satellite plus the social media revolution that in part cuts out information intermediaries, print newspapers have suffered tremendously. However, Advocate owner John Georges – a former gubernatorial and New Orleans mayoral candidate – since his 2013 purchase of the operation had pursued an aggressive expansion strategy that gobbled up or created outlets big and small, while smaller operations in particular have had difficulty in adapting to rising fixed costs and in getting a handle on increasingly important targeted digital advertising.

30.3.20

Congregants defying orders won't see penalties

They have been getting away with it. And they will continue to get away with it.

Central’s Life Tabernacle Church hasn’t missed much of a beat since Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a series of proclamation over the Wuhan coronavirus invasion into Louisiana. The orders began at limiting gatherings to 250, then went to 50, and the current iteration places the maximum number at ten. But the church continues tohold services and events that draw hundreds and even over a thousand participants.

Drawing national attention, pastor Tony Spell claims the virus won’t affect his congregants. He calls the matter a question of religious freedom, and suggests that the First Amendment’s free exercise and assembly clauses overrides any attempts at state government restrictions.

26.3.20

LA has means to avoid virus ventilator crisis

A ventilator crisis may loom for Louisiana, but it is manageable with a bit of forethought.

This device aids, if not entirely performs, breathing for individuals. A few people (like, for over 17 years, my wife) live with them permanently, but now demand for these has surged with the Wuhan coronavirus invasion. In fact, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, within two weeks the state health region (One) serving Orleans Parish will exhaust its supply of this equipment.

Keep in mind that Region One is not just the epicenter of the virus infection for Louisiana, but vying for that sad designation in the entire country. Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes had 65 percent of the state’s cases as of today, and the region’s incidence rate of under one in every 600 residents nationally trails only the New York City area. The Orleans rate of 1:393 is slightly higher than New York City’s, but New York’s Nassau County’s is a bit higher and Westchester’s unbelievably is more than twice as high.

25.3.20

Virus-caused LA budget cuts looking more likely

So, what are Louisianan’s options as the economic impact of the Wuhan coronavirus continues to linger?

It all starts with the Revenue Estimating Conference, which last year made forecasts for fiscal year 2021 that the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration wanted to bump up two months ago. Leery (presciently) of the state’s economic health, Republican leaders of the Legislature didn’t want to commit to a $100 million or so boost and no change occurred.

Chances are, with the price of oil more than halved in just weeks, taxes on sales, income, and gambling likely to feel ongoing effects from what appears to be a month-long economic moratorium, and the decline in investments that will force the state to commit more current revenues to shore up its unfunded accrued liabilities, that supposed surplus more than has disappeared. This means cuts for FY 2021, unless bringing into play the Budget Stabilization Fund.