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Louisiana governor declares day of prayer for COVID-19 dead

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared Sunday in Louisiana as a “day of prayer and remembrance” for the more than 9,000 people who have died from COVID-19 since the outbreakbegan a year ago.

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 death in Louisiana.

“Sadly, there are thousands of empty seats at churches, Sunday dinners, family celebrations, homes, businesses and schools all across our state,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “As we mourn, I am calling on all Louisianans to join me and Donna on Sunday for a moment of prayer or remembrance for those we have lost and their families and friends who need our support now more than ever.”

The health department has confirmed 9,122 people have died in the state from COVID-19, and hundreds of additional deaths are suspected from the disease caused by the coronavirus. More deaths continue to be announced daily.

But public health officials hope wider availability to coronavirus vaccineswill stem the number of new deaths, and already the daily death toll from COVID-19 in Louisiana has fallen as more people have received immunizations.

On Tuesday, Edwards expanded eligibility to the vaccine to much of Louisiana’s adult population, offering it to anyone 16 and older who has among two dozen high-risk medical conditions, including high-blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. People who are overweight or who are smokers also are on the list.

Nearly 18% of the state’s total population has received at least the first dose of the two-dose vaccine regimens available, according to state health department data. More than 470,000 people have been fully immunized, according to the state health department.

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