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State’s 1st likely positive coronavirus case reported

The Louisiana Department of Health has reported Louisiana’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

The case has been seen in a Jefferson Parish resident who is hospitalized in Orleans Parish, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday. At this time, there is only one known case of the illness in the state.

“While today is the first time that we can confirm that we have a presumptive positive coronavirus case, Louisiana has been preparing for this moment for many weeks,” Edwards said. “The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) still believes the risk to the general public is low, but we will work quickly and decisively to assess the risk to those around this patient.”

“Encouragingly, we were able to test this patient due to recently broadened criteria,” said Stephen Russo, interim secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. “It’s critical to be able to catch COVID-19 early to prevent spread in our communities.”

“Now together we all — as a government, as health care systems and providers, as schools, businesses and as neighbors — must take action and be vigilant to prevent the spread of this virus in our great state,” Edwards said.

Louisiana will send the presumptive positive test to the CDC for final confirmation of COVID-19. Because of the reliability of the test, Louisiana will move forward as if the test is an actual positive and take actions to contain the illness and assess the risk of spread.

The Office of Public Health’s (OPH) epidemiology team will begin an investigation of people who have come in close contact with the patient, including health care workers, to determine the risk of spread.

OPH will administer additional COVID-19 tests to determine if more people have been infected. Some people at risk may be quarantined for 14 days, even if their initial test is not positive.

State officials encourage Louisianans to take the following proactive steps to protect the health of themselves and those around them:

  • Cover your cough.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or with a hand sanitizer containing at least 60-percent alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) with those who are sick.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.