Louisiana COVID-19 cases rise again
Coronavirus numbers were up again Wednesday in Louisiana by 1,187 additional cases over a 24-hour period. Louisiana Department of Health reports a moderation in the death rate, posting 34 more deaths when 54 Louisianans had died the day before. LDH reports 6,424 Louisianans have the Coronavirus of which nearly 1,500 have been admitted to hospitals. Nearly 500 are on ventilators and hospital officials say they are running out of the machines. Ventilators enable patients to cut recovery times by up to 75%.
Governor John Bel Edwards says 150 ventilators should arrive from the federal government in the coming days but even that will be woefully inadequate. He says the state has ordered 14,000, mostly from private vendors, but grimly estimates some patients will die if Coronavirus victims inundate hospitals. He admonishes citizens to stay at home at all costs.
“This is going to play out over several months,” the governor said in Wednesday’s press conference. “People should start coming to terms that this is going to take a long time getting back to normal. I know that’s not what everybody wants to hear but it’s consistent with the information we keep getting.”
Meanwhile, CEOs of the nation’s top oil producers have called a summit with President Trump for this Friday. Louisiana is one of the top four oil producers in the United States. Crude prices since January have plummeted from $60 per barrel down to $20 per barrel as a production war rages between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Now with 90 percent of the world staying home, Gifford Briggs, president of Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, says oil reserves are on the verge of maxing out, meaning producers are running out of storage facilities. “This is driving prices even lower,” says Briggs. “Louisiana crude on the open market in some cases has been selling as low as $6 per barrel. This could decimate Louisiana’s oil patch, perhaps worse than the 1980s.”
While the convergence of competing energy CEOs is unusual, especially at the White House, sources close to organizers of the summit insist the group is not asking for a bailout.
In Louisiana, each dollar drop in crude prices equals a $12-million drop in state severance revenues. Louisiana’s budget is based on $54 per barrel oil. Wednesday, West Texas Intermediate crude hovered at $20.94/barrel. “If this Russia-Saudi oil war keeps going,” says LSU Economist Emeritus Dr. Loren Scott, “and oil remains about $30/bbl below what we budgeted, that means Louisiana could suffer a $360 million loss in revenue. That could certainly mean a cutback in state services.”
Governor John Bel Edwards says he has been communicating with some Louisiana energy leaders and the outlook, he says, is not good. “This is a very distressing situation for them and for our state,” the governor acknowledged. “It’s good news for our drivers with cheap prices at the pump, but it’s bittersweet because we would much rather see the price of gas back up. We remain committed here in Louisiana to do what we can do to help our companies.”