NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana is adding free entry to all 21 state parks as a perk for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
Unlike the free drinks available this month at some bars and restaurants around the state, the free admission runs through July for anyone who can prove full vaccination, no matter when, he said.
About 32% of all eligible state residents have been fully vaccinated, he said. That compares with 41.2% nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under “A Shot for a Shot,” announced earlier in the week, participating establishments are offering a free drink this month to anyone who shows proof of full vaccination within the previous seven days.
The state parks freebie is for visitors as well as state residents. It is part of Louisiana's “Bring Back the Summer” initiative, Edwards said. He also noted that there are numerous nationwide incentives listed at www.vaccines.gov/incentives.html.
“Stay tuned for more incentives and rewards that will be offered in the near future,” he added.
The governor started by introducing a Baton Rouge nurse who has vaccinated nearly a thousand people. Carla Brown said she brought COVID-19 home and her husband died of it last July.
“My husband had survived cancer two times, a gunshot wound to the head when he was young, only to succumb to a virus that I brought home," she said. "Through my grief and guilt, I was able to reach down deep into the soul of my faith, and I pledged to David that I would not to let his death be in vain.”
Brown, who was a psychiatric nurse at the time and now works at a hospice, has vaccinated 994 people on her own time, going door-to-door to spread the word that “this vaccine was made to save us.”
Her goal is 2,000 by July 4, she said.
“We will come to your office, your home or wherever you are,” she said.
Dr. Dawn Marcelle, head of the health department region centered on Baton Rouge, said only about 3.2% of all tests have been past in recent weeks, and the number of new cases has gone down steadily for 22 days.
“It's very encouraging but we still have to stay vigilant,” she said.
This version of the story deletes mention of state historic sites.