Officials urged residents to include masks, sanitizers and other protective gear in their emergency kits and to shelter only with immediate household members if possible.
“It should not be lost on any Louisianan that in addition to twin tropical weather threats, we still have to deal with the covid-19 pandemic,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who requested a federal emergency declaration from the White House on Saturday. “Covid-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather.”
California is facing a similar crisis, with some of the largest wildfires in the state’s history raging around the Bay Area. Residents are packing into shelters, virus testing centers have been forced to close, and teams of prisoners who typically help fight the blazes are not available after the inmates were released because of the virus, which has infected more than 650,000 people in the state.
Here are some significant developments:
- Health officials in Maine have linked a wedding reception in Millinocket to 53 coronavirus cases and one death, highlighting yet another example of the health risks posed by large gatherings. Investigators from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention say people who did not attend the wedding have been infected after coming into contact with guests, as the Bangor Daily News reported.
- Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Sunday that the Republican Party plans to test all Republican National Convention attendees before their arrival in Charlotte. Meanwhile, former vice president Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager on Sunday asserted that the Biden has not contracted covid-19. But Kate Bedingfield also said that he has not taken a test.
- Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration under President Trump, defended the agency Sunday after the president baselessly accused it of thwarting the development of vaccines and therapeutics for political reasons. “I firmly reject the idea that they would slow-walk anything, or accelerate anything for that matter, based on any kind of political consideration, and any consideration other than what’s best for the public health,” he said.
States in the tropical storms’ paths experienced sharp spikes in coronavirus cases when a wave of infections swept over the U.S. South and the West. In Louisiana, infections peaked at more than 3,000 per day in late July and early August, straining the state’s hospital system and prompting Edwards to institute a statewide mask mandate.
Louisiana has since reported progress against the virus, with seven-day averages for new daily cases falling by 29 percent over the past week, according to The Post’s data. But officials cautioned that the outbreak could reverse course if people abandon health measures as they bunker down for the storms.
“We don’t want to lose what we’ve gained,” Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said at a news conference Saturday, as reported by the New Orleans Advocate.
Cases also surged in Mississippi last month and are trending upward again after dipping in the first half of August, according to The Post’s tracking.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) declared a state of emergency over the weekend and warned residents that shelter capacity would be limited because of the state’s outbreak. He urged people to seek out nonpublic spaces if they needed to evacuate.
“We are in unprecedented times,” Reeves said Saturday. “We are dealing with not only two potential storms in the next few hours, we are also dealing with covid-19.”
“What we can’t have happen is, if this thing is to strengthen on Sunday or Monday, to have a mad rush of people to our sheltering space,” he added.
In other parts of the country, officials stepped up warnings about possible “super-spreader” events that create ideal conditions for virus transmission.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he recently shut off power at a Hollywood home after the residents hosted large parties.
“Where people don’t listen, we’re going to shut them down,” Garcetti said. “We’re just not playing here. We are not going to let people take our lives into their hands, so we shut it down.”
In Maine, the Aug. 7 wedding reception in Millinocket is a growing concern for health officials, who said this weekend that they have identified secondary and tertiary infections connected with it, showing the virus had rippled into the surrounding community. Those infected ranged in age from 4 to 98, officials said.
Large gatherings are a problem for colleges and universities, too, with school officials struggling to rein in their students as they return to campus for the new academic year. Some institutions, including the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, have suspended in-person classes following campus outbreaks, and images of students packed into bars and common areas have resulted in harsh warnings and discipline from administrators.
Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona, said that more than 5,000 students living in the university’s dorms have been tested for the virus. But he cautioned that the more than 20,000 other students living off campus will be harder to control once the university begins in-person and online classes Monday.
“I think the big issue is off-campus activity,” Robbins told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. He said students could be expelled for violating the university’s pandemic policies, including mandatory mask-wearing, and said the campus could shut down again if cases spike and area hospitals become overwhelmed.
“If we can’t handle it and people are getting really ill,” Robbins said, “then we’ll pull the plug.”
Matthew Cappucci, Jason Samenow, Abigail Hauslohner and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.