Louisiana postpones April 4 presidential primary

Melinda Deslatte
Associated Press

Baton Rouge, La. – Louisiana postponed its April 4 presidential primary over concerns about coronavirus, the first state to suspend voting since the outbreak began.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday that the state’s primary would be postponed until June 20. Four other states, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona, are still holding their primaries on Tuesday.

“The threat we face from the COVID-19 virus is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced,” Ardoin said in a press conference in Baton Rouge on Friday. “The law provides for extraordinary measures to be taken when faced with an emergency or disaster.”

Democrats Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are competing for the party’s presidential nomination. Biden is on track to earn enough delegates for the nomination before June.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks about the new coronavirus, while Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, listens on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. The number of cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus are on the rise in Louisiana. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Early voting in Louisiana’s election was scheduled to start in a week. But with a large number of elderly poll workers and worldwide concerns about people gathering in groups, Ardoin’s office said it didn’t feel comfortable continuing with the election plans.

As of Friday, the number of residents testing positive in the state had jumped to 33, centered largely in the New Orleans area, according to the state health department’s latest figures. The positive tests are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of parishes with infected residents has grown to eight, with most of those in the New Orleans area, but one case has been identified in northwest Louisiana, in Caddo Parish.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover within weeks.

Edwards has declared a public health emergency. State prisons have suspended visitation for 30 days, and hospitals and nursing homes are limiting visitor access, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to vulnerable populations.

Events around Louisiana, like around the country, were being canceled. The Southern University System joined the Louisiana State University System and several New Orleans universities in starting to move all of its classes online. The Louisiana Legislature, only one week into its three-month session, began working on contingency plans for must-pass bills, such as the budget – in case lawmakers decide to shut down work early.

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