Illuminator Podcast: Where is Louisiana with COVID-19?

An interview with Dr. Joe Kanter, the interim head of Louisiana's public health office


The following is a transcript of a portion of this podcast episode. Julie O’Donoghue interviews Dr. Joe Kanter, the interim head of Louisiana’s public health office, about COVID-19 restrictions.  

To listen to the full episode, go here

Julie: Republicans in the Legislature are pushing for fewer COVID-19 restrictions. The House GOP filed a petition to terminate all of the governor’s COVID limitations for seven days.

It’s not clear yet whether that petition is legal. A district court judge will hear arguments about its legitimacy later this week.

But if the Republicans get their way, Kanter says it will be disastrous for the health of the  state, even if the restrictions only go away for a week.

Kanter: If folks want an idea of what would happen, just search online for what’s happening in North and South Dakota right now. It would very quickly increase the number of cases dramatically. That would happen for a few weeks.

People being hospitalized is somewhat of a lagging measure so we can expect two or three weeks later to be really talking about hospitals reaching their capacity and how we are going to mitigate that. A couple of weeks later we would be talking about crisis systems of care, which is how we would ration care in hospitals, how we would have to choose who would get the limited amount of staff or hospital availability or even ventilators. And then we would, of course, see fatalities go up as well.

Julie: Kanter says many other states and countries have already tried lifting all COVID restrictions. And it never goes well. Kanter says that’s one of the reasons so many states are in trouble. Their health care systems end up getting overwhelmed. He says a seven-day hiatus from COVID protections could trigger the same problems in Louisiana. 

Kanter: You’ll see that across the country now. You’ll see a state get to the brink of disaster and then backtracks very quickly, but getting to the brink has a consequence. It has a cost. People get sick. People die. That’s the cost. Nobody wants to do that. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s what happens if we all the sudden say there’s no limit on gathering sizes. You want to have 100,000 fans in Tiger Stadium? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that that’s what’s going to happen.

Julie: Still, Republicans in the Legislature would like more flexibility on restrictions like the mask mandate. They want parishes with lower rates of COVID to be able to make masks optional. Kanter says that would lead to more problems. 

Kanter: Encouraging masking is, in a sense, the most pro-business thing we can do right now. The safest way to operate a business right now is to have the patrons inside wear masks. It’s going to reduce the transmission in that business and it is going to reduce the amount of community spread. The more community spread, the more we start about having to go backwards on restrictions. So anyone that is interested in having more of the economy open should be focusing on how they can encourage more masking, and not less, because it’s going to help them.


Dr. Joe Kanter

Louisiana Office of Public Health

Kanter took over the Louisiana Office of Public Health on an interim basis in October of 2020.