On August 16, 2021 the Louisiana Health and Welfare Committee met with Joe Kanter, Louisiana Department of Health’s top medical official, and Matthew Block, the Executive Council to the Governor who handles every single one of the Governor’s public record requests. Block was also present for the BESE meeting debacle a few days later. Most media outlets chose to only cover the chaos and try to make a mockery of concerned parents. However, the meeting was packed with information that gave a clearer picture of where Louisiana is with the pandemic.
The Mask Police
Sadly, the media ignored most of the information given in August 16th’s meeting. Instead they focused on calling concerned parents crazy anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. One headline even labeled them as Q-Anon followers. The room was full of unmasked people until Representative Miller complained. The audience pointed out that most of the committee was without a mask.
Legislators agreed to wear a mask for the sake of having the meeting. Initially Chairman Larry Bagley accepted exemptions. Then Representative Miller complained that people were too close to Dr. Kanter. Chairman Bagley transformed into the Queen of Hearts. People were forced to leave the room for not wearing a mask. Security physically removed one woman. Representative Robby Carter halted the meeting to make sure everyone’s noses were covered. This was great for headlines. It was also a good distraction from the conversation between legislators and LDH.
AP is mad that opponents of mask mandates/vaccine passports “mock, jeer & yell.”
BLM looted & destroyed countless small businesses & caused millions in property damage across the country. I don’t remember any @AP headlines about their lack of “civil discourse.” https://t.co/jvNdtPqHEI
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 23, 2021
But, What About The Bed Shortage?
One thing that confused a few representatives was that Louisiana is not actually dealing with a bed shortage. Legislators asked repeatedly but Dr. Kanter was adamant that beds were not an issue. The staff shortage is the problem. It is one Louisiana has faced for decades. He added that at the onset of this surge Louisiana was short 6,000 nurses and doctors. Oddly enough, hospitals are running staff off by threatening to fire them if they do not get the vaccine.
What About the Kids?
During the meeting LDH mentioned 88 children (statewide) were hospitalized with Covid-like symptoms. This means about one child per hospital on average. When asked to differentiate between hospitalized children with a Covid diagnosis and those who had other illnesses such as RSV, Louisiana Department of Health answered “We don’t get that data.” Representative Moore asked how many children under the age of 12 have died in Louisiana. Dr. Kanter said he would have to get back to her with specific age brackets. The only number he had was for 0-17 which was 10 deaths.
Everybody is doing it.
Louisiana Department of Health shared that 45.7% of Louisiana residents have at least initiated the vaccination process. About 38% have completed the process. When asked about deaths related to the vaccine they claimed there were none. When asked about adverse reactions LDH said there were 8. LDH further explained that in order for adverse reactions to be counted, it would require an overnight hospital stay.
As far as herd immunity, Dr. Kanter says “I don’t know.” He did say the reinfection rate is pretty low. Of the 614,000 that have tested positive for Covid, only about 5,000 people have been re-infected. When asked about that rate being as good as the vaccine, Kanter quickly disagreed.
Why Not Try Everything?
Representative Michael Echols asked about alternative treatment protocols that doctors are currently using and what LDH is doing in that capacity. He reminded Dr. Kanter that this is an unprecedented thing. Unprecedented steps are being taken with vaccinations, masks, and other things. Kanter said that he does not believe the other protocols are typically recommended. He added that there are clinical trials looking at those medicines. Echols asked how long the clinical trials were with the covid vaccines to which Kanter answered “quite extensive.”
Those Convenient Mandate Requests
One of the most telling parts of the meeting was when Representative Echols asked about communications between LDH and businesses/healthcare organizations. Echols asked if LDH instructed anyone to call businesses or healthcare facilities to request written letters encouraging the governor to reinitiate a mask mandate. Matthew Block danced around trying to explain what should have been a simple yes or no.
Echols explained why this was a concern from a public trust perspective.
“If business or healthcare organizations are asked to write a letter to the governor by LDH, which the governor oversees, 2 days later the governor eludes to “businesses are writing letters so I’ve got to consider this,” and then the Monday or Tuesday after they publish the letter saying “I had to do this because I was being encouraged by businesses” it eliminates the confidence of the messenger when it feels like the message was being set up on the front side.”
McDonald’s & Krispy Kreme
Representative Crews asked something Louisiana citizens have wondered since this pandemic began: why isn’t LDH promoting a healthy lifestyle? We know obesity is one of the most common comorbidities. He pointed out that Louisiana is not a very healthy state in general. According to the LDH website, nearly one out of four adults in Louisiana is considered obese.
“Is it true that LDH partners with McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme to deploy the experimental vaccine?”