Local, state leaders grapple with coronavirus spread

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Local, state, and national leaders have continued to keep residents informed through the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 3,540 cases statewide and 151 deaths. The total reported as hospitalized was 1,127.

Ascension Parish had 139 presumptive cases Sunday. The parish accounted for two deaths.

Speaking Sunday during a conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state ranked third for most cases in the country per capita, and second in per capita deaths.

Right now we should be focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Edwards said.

Ascension ranked 12th among areas with more than 100,000 residents 

At one point last week, Ascension Parish reached 12th in confirmed coronavirus cases among parishes and counties with more than 100,000 residents.

At the time, figures showed Ascension Parish to have 91 positive cases among its estimated population of more than 126,000.

The New Orleans area, particularly Orleans and Jefferson parishes, ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, during that period.

The top four areas were in New York: Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and New York City, respectively.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment released a statement in an effort to put the figures into perspective.

I truly believe the reason is simply that we are ahead of the curve with testing here in Ascension Parish,” Cointment said. “This is due to the professionalism and organization of our healthcare experts.”

He credited the proactive approach to testing local residents. Testing was not random. Everyone tested in the parish was screened by a medical professional before the test.

Being a bedroom community with a robust economy, our community is inherently more mobile, with thousands of people traveling out of the parish to visit family each week, as well as the thousands of people who travel every day into Ascension Parish to work at the many businesses and industries we are fortunate to have here,” Cointment said.

The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center is on stand-by as a possible emergency shelter and staging area, according to parish officials. Currently, the facility is not being considered for any purpose related to the pandemic, though it remains an option if needed.

Do not focus on the numbers issued each day by the Department of Health, as they may fluctuate throughout this event,” Cointment said through a release. “You should continue practicing social distancing, and adhering to the Governor’s stay at home orders, regardless of what the numbers show. While essential businesses are still open, you should limit travel to those essential services only.”

City of Donaldsonville employee tests positive

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, during a Thursday briefing, reported a city employee tested positive for coronavirus.

Announced during his bi-weekly update via Facebook, Sullivan said the city’s staff had been alerted.

City Hall remains closed through April 5. At that time, the possibility of opening will be evaluated.

Sullivan said employees are working remotely, and can be reached at 225-473-4247.

Last week, Chateau D’ville Rehab and Retirement was reported as a second “cluster” of coronavirus cases in the state. 

Sullivan said he has been in contact with the facility’s management. The five patients have been quarantined, and no further cases have been reported.

The Mayor thanked the staff, state Sen. Ed Price, state Rep. Ken Brass, and parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for their support with the matter.

Prevost Memorial Hospital begins testing

Sullivan said Prevost Memorial Hospital has been testing for coronavirus for patients with a doctor’s order. Tests have been conducted at both Prevost and Our Lady of the Lake Ascension in Gonzales.

The hospital has been receiving donations, many from anonymous donors. The staff can be reached at 225-473-7931.

Ascension Parish Schools employees test positive

Also reported last week was the positive test of an employee at Lowery Elementary and Middle School in Donaldsonville. The Ascension Parish School Board also reported a coronavirus case at Central Primary in Gonzales. 

District officials are not able to provide details on medical information due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA.

Robyn Penn Delaney, who serves as a School Board member, said she spoke during the Mayor’s update as a private citizen, and not on behalf of the School Board.

She encouraged anyone with symptoms to reach out to a medical professional.

Together we can work to get this solved,” Delaney said.

Officials continue to provide frequent updates

Officials have been giving updates at Donaldsonville City Hall on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m. Sullivan and other officials are broadcasting updates via 1590 KKAY and KBRS 106.9 FM on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9 a.m.

Industrial sector reports positive tests

Also last week, workers in the area’s industrial corridor tested positive for coronavirus.

BASF’s facility in Geismar and Denka in LaPlace each announced one employee tested positive. Dow Chemical in Plaquemine reported positive tests for three contract workers.

In another notable industrial sector development, the Formosa Plastics facility planned for nearby St. James Parish was halted until next month.

National aid package signed

- Nationally, a bipartisan $2 trillion aid package was approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.

The stimulus provides $1,200 to most Americans. Exceptions involve individuals and married couples with higher income levels. 

Some 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits in one week, which was the highest number in the history of the data being kept.

Stay At Home remains in effect

Over the weekend, parish officials reminded citizens to adhere to the Governor’s recommendation to limit travel to essential needs only.

A curfew is not in effect, as emphasized in the release.

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