Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter issued a statement on Facebook this weekend regarding the community, mask-wearing and COVID-19 in the local area. The Sunday post was met with a mixture of supportive and upset comments.
The post read as follows:
"I get it. Some don't trust elected officials or the CDC. Do you have more faith in locals who have survived COVID-19 or locals who have lost family members and friends to COVID-19? Do you have more faith in the chief medical officers and administrators from the major Calcasieu Parish hospitals, over 120 local physicians who signed a joint statement, ICU nurses from Lake Charles Memorial and Christus Ochsner, or the Calcasieu Parish Coroner? I have never sought to be an alarmist, but I believe it's my job to share accurate and up to date information from vetted, reliable sources. Over the last couple weeks, I have shared with you the voices of our local medical community, the men and women on the front lines of COVID-19. These are the voices of literally thousands of years' worth of collective medical education and experience. At this point, if you continue to believe that COVID-19 is overdramatized or a ‘hoax,' you are choosing to call the vast majority of our local medical community either ‘liars' or ‘misinformed.' For every oversimplified meme or outdated YouTube video that espouses the contrary, I can provide a dozen local medical professionals who have seen first-hand what COVID-19 really is and how we can best fight it.
"Local officials realize that current preventative measures will not eliminate COVID-19 from our community, but we also realize that if our hospitals get overrun, this affects anyone in this community who needs emergency medical attention. Similarly, I realize that closing an economy can have catastrophic short term and long term effects on the health of a community. There are no easy answers. Southwest Louisiana is a strong, caring community. Adhering to suggested measures, including mask-wearing, is the best way we can help our local medical community, business owners, and workforce at the same time. Currently, this is the best way we can show collective strength and care for ourselves and our neighbor."
As of Monday at noon, there are 95,002 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana and 3,572 deaths; 84 of those deaths are from Calcasieu Parish.
Hunter shared with the American Press on Monday his reasoning behind speaking up concerning the rising cases instead of saying nothing.
"I'm also a realist when it comes to the economy. I do not believe that we can open and close an economy every one or two months — I think that is an unsustainable method of how to deal with this virus and that is why I am advocating for people to take the preventative measures .... so that we can keep the economy open," he said. "I don't want to close our local economy because I realize that has catastrophic effects on a myriad of aspects of our community."
Hunter said the post was "really just a culmination of a couple weeks' worth of conversations with medical professionals" and he had hope this would be another call to action for others to be selfless and provide what help they could to the medical community and those living throughout Louisiana.
"There's reactions across the board but I do believe at this point there are more local people who are beginning to realize the seriousness of the situation and I think that is a good thing," Hunter said. "I think that local officials .... we're not doing our job if we're not trying to get people to understand the conditions in our hospitals and seriousness of this virus. It would be foolish and it would be irresponsible for me as a mayor to stick my head in the sand right now when the medical community — the local medical community — is asking for help.
"I don't care whether you're a mayor or just anyone, if you get a phone call from a local leader from the hospital saying, ‘Our situation is becoming critical, we need help; we're getting to a point where we can't handle the influx of ICU patients,' that affects you. My current stance ... (is) based on information I'm getting from the local medical community here in Lake Charles. Nurses, doctors, frontline workers who I trust and do not believe are part of some conspiracy to advocate the numbers. I know that local doctors and local administrators are not doing that. You're either saying our local medical professionals are lying to us, or they are keeping us misinformed. I believe neither of those things, that they are telling us the truth."
Hunter said the information and statistics are changing every day, but COVID-19 is affecting the ICU bed capacity "like never before in recent history" and is something "far above and beyond anything we have seen in modern history in Lake Charles."
"What I'm hearing from the medical community is if we continue in this trajectory, we will run out of ICU beds in Lake Charles," Hunter said. "For those who would still say to not fear this, I would compare it to looking at a radar and seeing a Category 5 hurricane coming towards your doorstep and having a meteorologist tell you that this is serious and you need to take action ... and you saying ‘I'll just wait until it gets here, then I'll deal with it.' "