Prisons in Louisiana suspend visits as COVID-19 cases rise

Louisiana’s eight state-run prisons have suspended prison visits and volunteer work in response to the state’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections said Tuesday. The suspension lasts for at least three weeks.

The department said in a statement that it took the “precautionary measure” to “protect its staff and prisoner populations” and will reconsider the suspension on August 16.

This is not the first time prison visits have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The department first suspended visits on March 20, 2020 and did not reintroduce them until March 13, 2021.

On July 21, there were 26 employees and no prisoners positive about COVID-19 in the eight state-run prisons, according to weekly data reported by the department. But worldwide, the Delta variant has helped push cases and admissions to record levels. On Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 6,797 new COVID-19 cases, the second-highest number of single-day counts reported since January.

Louisiana, designated by the White House as a “state of concern,” also saw its largest single-day rise in COVID-19 admissions since March 2020 on Tuesday, with 1,390 admissions reported across the country.

In response to rising COVID-19 admissions, one of Louisiana’s largest hospitals on Monday suspended planning for non-urgent surgical procedures requiring hospital beds. “Our inpatient facilities remain on capacity,” Stephanie Manson, chief operating officer at Our Lady of the Lake hospital, said in a statement. “We made this decision to make extra beds and staff available.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday that 90% of current admissions due to COVID-19 complications in the state are unvaccinated patients. And since Louisiana is one of the least vaccinated states in the nation, Edwards urged residents to “make the decision today to be vaccinated.”

“For anyone who asks the question, when will this end, the answer is simple: when we decide to do what it takes to end it,” he wrote in a statement. “The most effective tools for making this happen are free and widely available – the three safe and effective vaccines.”

Edwards also advised residents to continue with social distance and reiterated recommendations issued by the Louisiana Health Department last week that advise both vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents to wear face masks indoors.

“Like I said recently, this increase is upon us, and that means it’s up to each of us to do our part to bring it to an end,” Edwards said. “It’s within our power.”

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