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Coronavirus leading to closings, other changes in parish

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a public health emergency in Louisiana, in response to the rapid growth of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the “coronavirus.”

On Friday, the governor said the state had seen 33 presumed positive cases out of the 94 citizens who had been tested. Two cases had been seen in St. Tammany Parish, although none had been yet reported in Washington or Tangipahoa parishes, as of presstime.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

The virus is believed to spread primarily through person-to-person contact, which is leading to many large-scale events being cancelled or postponed across the nation. It seems to be especially dangerous to the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems.

Most major sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and MLB, have suspended games. Numerous concerts and conventions have also been cancelled.

Although there were no reported cases in Washington Parish as of presstime, local officials are already taking action.

Parish President Richard Ned Thomas issued a statement late Thursday addressing the COVID-19 situation.

“As updated information is available to Washington Parish concerning the COVID-19, Washington Parish Government along with the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness will let the people of Washington Parish know through our Facebook pages and the Washington Parish Government website (www.washingtonparishalerts.org),” the statement read. “There are many senior citizens that reside in Washington Parish. We ask that you check on your neighbors and the senior citizens — make phone calls to those living close to you, and see if there are things they may need.

“Most of all, make sure that you follow the guidelines — know your risk, know your circumstances, protect yourself. Keep calm and wash your hands.”

The state announced Friday that the presidential preference primary scheduled for Saturday, April 4, will now be moved to Saturday, June 20. The city of Bogalusa had a sales tax rededication ballot measure that will also be moved to that new election date.

 

Schools, nursing homes, hospitals enact changes

On Friday, Edwards signed a proclamation that — among other actions — immediately halts any gathering of more than 250 people until Monday, April 13. It also closes all kindergarten-12 public schools statewide, effective Monday, March 16, and resuming Monday, April 13, as Louisiana seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Many universities and colleges across the country have also announced closures in response to COVID-19, asking students to stay off campus and take online classes when available.

Dr. Jim Carlson, vice chancellor of strategic initiatives for Northshore Technical Community College, said classes would be held off campus for some time.

“Classes will be cancelled Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, as faculty and staff finalize plans for on-line delivery of instruction and alternate training schedules for unique programs of study to be officially launched on Wednesday, March 18,” Carlson said. “For the most up to date information, you should continue to monitor the college’s website at www.northshorecollege.edu.”

Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa announced a change to its visitor guidelines Friday. Visitation of hospital patients is now limited to one visitor (12 years or older) per patient, per day. In addition, there have been screening stations placed at designated entrances.

“Prevention is the key to containment of viruses like COVID-19 and we’re taking additional precautions to help keep our patients and team members safe,” said Dr. G. Daud Noaz, Medical Chief of Staff for Our Lady of the Angels Physician Group.

All visitors entering will be screened, based on CDC guidance. The screening process includes several questions designed to determine whether a visitor may be at risk (such as whether the visitor has symptoms, has recently been in contact with someone with a respiratory illness, or lives in a community with multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases). Any prospective visitor with fever, cough or shortness of breath will not be allowed to visit at all.

Riverside Medical Center in Franklinton has enacted similar visitation restrictions. Patient visitation is now limited to two people per day, and all visitors to the hospital for any reason are to enter and exit through the emergency entrance and sign in.

It is likely that many planned events will be affected in the upcoming days. Shortly before presstime, an “Understanding the Opioid Epidemic” forum scheduled for Bogalusa on April 14 had been cancelled.

 

Public hygiene tips

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

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your cough.
  • 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.

Additional information on COVID-19 can be found on the Louisiana Department of Health’s website at www.ldh.la.gov/coronavirus.

 

The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and evolving. For updates, visit The Daily News online at www.bogalusadailynews.com or follow “The Daily News” on Facebook.