The Catholic governor of Louisiana has asked fellow citizens to pray and fast on March 24 for those affected by the coronavirus. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced on Monday evening that he and the state's First Lady will fast on Tuesday, in the middle of both the season of Lent and a global pandemic.

"In this Lenten season where we focus on fasting and prayer, I wanted to let the people of Louisiana know that I will be fasting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24," Edwards tweeted.

The governor asked others to pray and fast with him "for comfort to those that have lost a loved one to COVID-19, the complete recovery of those that have tested positive, and that God will, as He has done before, heal His people and our land."

Edwards, a Catholic, was re-elected in November to his second term as Louisiana's governor. In 2019, he signed a ban on abortions once a baby's heartbeat can be detected in utero, usually around six to eight weeks.

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in more than 46,000 confirmed cases in the U.S.

Louisiana has the third-highest rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita of any state in the U.S., Edwards said on CNN on Monday evening. There are 1,172 reported cases and 34 deaths from the new coronavirus in the state, and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond tested positive for the new coronavirus on Monday.

Edwards issued a stay-at-home order to all Louisiana residents, effective at 5 p.m. CT on Monday, limiting the movement of residents outside their homes to activities such as grocery store and pharmacy shopping, medical visits, recreational walks outside, and urgent visits to friends and family.

On Monday evening, he asked others to join him in prayer and fasting on Tuesday.

"[The First Lady] and I believe in the power of prayer and know, based on our Catholic Christian faith, that prayer coupled with fasting is pleasing to God. #lagov #lalege," Edwards tweeted.

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In defiance of CDC guidelines for limited gatherings to slow the spread of the virus, pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana held a service on Sunday with more than 1800 people in attendance, according to local news outlet WNEM.

On CNN on Monday, Edwards responded to the gathering that "I'm a person of faith. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe in science." His stay-at-home order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in one place at one time.

"In this case, I choose to do what science tells me while I pray for the best possible outcome," he said.