60 employees of Louisiana’s largest health system test positive for COVID-19, 300 in quarantine

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Louisiana’s largest network of hospitals and urgent care centers said Wednesday that about 60 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and approximately 300 employees have been quarantined.

Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas announced the numbers during a conference call with members of the media on the morning of March 25.

Thomas said those numbers represent a fraction of the “thousands and thousands” of people employed by Ochsner, which comprises 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals and more than 100 health centers and urgent care centers with nearly 25,000 employees, making it the state’s largest health system, according to the Ochsner website.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has repeatedly said that the state’s healthcare system could fail under the strain of an influx of coronavirus patients.

“The coronavirus spread and its impact could begin to outpace our healthcare capacity in a certain region,” Edwards said during a March 19 press conference. “Down in the Orleans, Jefferson region within about seven to 10 days without additional support from the federal government.”

That fear was a major driver behind Edwards’ push for a Federal major disaster declaration for Louisiana, which President Trump granted on March 24.

The health system is also facing a shortage of nurses. Staffers from other clinics in the state are being redeployed to aid in the coronavirus crisis

“We’re redeploying people like medical assistants that are normally in our clinics to go to our inpatient floors to work as certified nurse assistants to support our RNs or LPNs in the hospital,” Thomas said.

Ochsner is also experiencing a bed shortage in the New Orleans region, especially in the ICU. There is a shortage of coronavirus test kits, but Thomas said the number of kits is ramping up right now.

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