Coronavirus In Louisiana: The Latest On The Spread And The Response

Mar 10, 2020
Originally published on August 12, 2020 1:48 pm

As coronavirus spreads, we'll be updating this live blog with the latest news on new cases of COVID-19 and the response from Louisiana, New Orleans, health care institutions, schools, festivals and more.

So much has happened and there's a lot more to come. We want to save you the load time and keep these blogs short.

You'll find each day's live blog at the top of WWNO.org.

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Here are a few go-to resources:

New Orleans And Louisiana Resources For Anyone Out Of Work Because Of Coronavirus

Your Questions About Coronavirus, Answered

Drive-Through Testing Locations

How To Keep Calm And Carry On — And Laugh: Mental Health Advice From An Expert

Coronavirus Myths Busted, Questions Answered, And Anxieties (Maybe) Eased

Where To Get Takeout In New Orleans During The Coronavirus Shutdown: A Neighborhood Guide

The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention

Louisiana Department of Health

NOLA Ready

Red Stick Ready

Too much to keep up with? Sign up for our New Orleans Public Radio newsletter and we'll send you a news roundup at the end of each week. Or, if you're in Baton Rouge, sign up for WRKF's weekly newsletter.

March 25, 2020

5 p.m.

Morial Convention Center will be used to house up to 3,000 COVID-19 patients, ideally those recovering from ICU stays at local hospitals, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a press conference Wednesday.

The goal is to free up more space at the hospitals to treat critically ill patients.

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4:40 p.m.

The state’s three remaining abortion clinics have closed temporarily as a result of state health department orders linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

The closures came after Louisiana anti-abortion groups criticized abortion clinics for operating during the pandemic, alleging clinics could be aiding the spread of the virus.

While elective, abortion is a procedure with a stark time limit in Louisiana — it’s banned after 22-weeks of pregnancy, and those wanting a medication abortion must have one even earlier.

Read more

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3:50 p.m.

The City of New Orleans has announced a partnership between World Central Kitchen and Hands On New Orleans to provide free meal delivery service to home-bound, low-income seniors and chronically ill residents — those at a greater risk of severe illness if exposed to COVID-19.

Starting Monday, World Central Kitchen will prepare and package individual meals following USDA certification and weight requirements for seniors. Batches of refrigerated meals will be delivered to the door of those in need on Mondays and Thursdays by volunteers working with Hands On New Orleans and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.

Volunteer drivers are needed to pick up and deliver multiple days worth of meals. Additionally, volunteer callers are needed to conduct follow-up checks to make sure meal recipients receive their food as scheduled, maintain good health and maintain good spirits.

Callers will be able to participate from the safety of their homes.

Volunteers guidelines:

  • Are 18 years or older (Drivers may not be older than 59) 
  • Have not experienced symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 in the last 14 days 
  • Have not been around anyone who has COVID-19 in the last 14 days 
  • Have not traveled to a foreign country in the last 14 days 
  • Have not been on a cruise or been in an airport in the last 14 days 
  • Have not attended an event where more than 50 people were in attendance in the last 14 days

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1 p.m.

New Orleanians' next sewage and water bills will only provide an estimate of what they owe, the Sewage and Water Board announced today.

It also announced that it won't be charging late fees in April and May.

The meter-reading ream is "experiencing severe staff shortages," according to a press release. "Very few" employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and others who were in direct contact with them are uner precautionary quaratine. 

Per the press release, here's how an estimated bill will be calculated:

  • Take your four previous readings, two of which are required to be actual readings (not estimates)
  • Calculate how many gallons of water you use each day on average
  • Multiply that by the number of days in the present billing period

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12:45 p.m.

Many of the cultural traditions in New Orleans, and South Louisiana more generally, set the region apart from the rest of the country. And one of the biggest ways is how we honor the lives of our loved ones after they’ve died.

In many parts of the country, solemn mourning takes precedent. Here, celebration plays a part, most evident in the jazz funeral tradition.

Still, mourning usually means gathering with our friends and family, something complicated by social distancing restrictions in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

To get a better sense of how public health restrictions are changing funerals in the city, New Orleans Public Radio spoke with Patrick Schoen, managing partner at Jacob Schoen and Son Funeral Directors.

Read more

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Noon

Sixty-five people are now dead and 1,795 people are known to be sick with COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the state health department.

That's 19 more deaths since yesterday, and another 407 reported cases — the largest jumps for both counts since the first case was recoreded in Louisiana on March 9.

The state lab has completed 2,037 tests and commercial labs have completed 9,414 tests.

There are known cases of COVID-19 in 48 of Louisiana's 64 parishes.

There are 827 known cases in Orleans Parish and 37 people have died there. Jefferson Parish has been hit second-hardest, with 359 known cases and seven people dead.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, 75 people are known to have COVID-19 and three are dead. 

You can see a full list of cases and deaths by parish on the Louisiana Department of Health's dashboard.

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11 a.m.

President Donald Trump approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration late Tuesday night, paving the way for Louisiana to receive additional federal aid as the state fights the coronavirus.

Louisiana is just the fourth state to receive such a designation.

With the major disaster declaration, the federal government will cover 75 percent of any cost incurred by state, tribal and eligible local governments fighting the outbreak.

Read more

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March 24, 2020

5:30 p.m.

NOLA.com's Ramon Antonio Vargas reports that five New Orleans Police Department officers are sick with COVID-19 and about four dozen others are in self-quarantine.

The department says their absences “have not compromised the operation of any unit in the department.”

Read more

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5 p.m.

In mid-March, the members of the New Orleans-based band Bon Bon Vivant found themselves stranded in Reno. The spread of the coronavirus had begun to shut down cities across the U.S., canceling their tour gigs. Then it started to snow.

“We were just sitting around on Sunday with nothing to do, snowed in. All of us feeling kind of anxious,” said Jeremey Kelly, the band’s saxophone player.

Cooped up in a hotel, they decided to try something they've never really done before: a Facebook Live concert. The band took requests, playing for over an hour and fielding tips through Venmo.

They figured a handful of their friends would log in, just to see that they're doing okay. Instead, 1,500 people viewed the concert.

“People, like, sent us messages, saying, ‘We were just tangoing in the kitchen, barefoot,’” Kelly said. “And, ‘We were all eating dinner and we turned you on the Apple TV, and we just watched your show while we ate dinner and the kids thought it was so much fun.’ ”

The band earned about $600, some of which they shared with musician friends back home in New Orleans who've lost their gigs — and livelihoods — to the coronavirus shutdown. Kelly said they plan to hold more live streaming concerts to support themselves and their community, and to give people some joy in the time of the coronavirus.

Read more

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5 p.m.

NOLA Public Schools has bought 10,000 Chromebook laptops for its students to improve distance learning from their homes, the school district said in a press release Tuesday afternoon.

By order of Gov. John Bel Edwards, all public schools are closed until at least April 13. Across the state, school districts are trying to facilitate distance learning for their students by providing physical work packets and links to online education resources.

But not every household has the same access to the internet, so NOLA Public Schools has taken several steps to provide online access to students at the schools it oversees. In addition to the laptops, the school district purchased 5,000 wireless hotspots last week.

Read more

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Noon

Twelve more people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the latest report from the Louisiana Department of Health.

In all, 46 people have died, and 1,388 have been diagnosed with the disease. The number of known cases is up by 216 from yesterday.

The state lab has completed 1,852 tests and commercial labs have completed 6,751 tests.

There are COVID-19 cases in 43 of Louisiana's 64 parishes. That's two more parishes since yesterday.

There are 675 known cases in Orleans Parish, and 26 people there have died. There are 293 in Jefferson Parish, where 6 people have died. East Baton Rouge has 58 cases and two people have died.

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9 a.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested a Major Disaster Declaration for Louisiana, a move that would make more federal support available to state and local agencies.

"The response to the spread of COVID-19 has overwhelmed the capabilities of state and local resources," Edwards wrote in a letter to the president. "I have determined that this incident is of such severity and maginitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and local governments."

Edwards wrote that as of March 22, the response to the coronavirus had cost state and local governments more than $65.6 million.

The request details the amount of personal protective equipment it has distributed, including more than 100,000 face shields, 76,000 Tyvek suits and 48,000 N95 respirators.

Read more

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March 23, 2020  

At 7 p.m., Louisiana Public Broadcasting and Gov. John Bel Edwards will host a live discussion and Q&A on the coronavirus outbreak in Louisiana.

You can submit questions here, tune in on 89.9 and 89.3, or watch here:

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2:15 p.m.

Online applications are being accepted at the SPCA shelters in Algiers and Plaquemines for getting dogs and cats out of their cages and into homes.

Ana Zorrilla, chief executive officer of the Louisiana SPCA, said fostering can last for several weeks, ut it’s up to the person.

“With this social distancing and isolation it can be a really lonely time for people," Foster said. "And so not only is it good for the pet to be in a home but for the people to have something to take care of, a reason to go out and take a walk, a way to have companionship and love, even if it is just for a short period of time.”

Elizabeth Stubbs works on the foster program. She said even if the animal can’t get a permanent home, a break is beneficial.

“Honestly sometimes the dogs do better once they come back from foster because our fosters do basic manner training, things like that," she said. "And so we’re able to have the dogs more mentally stimulated by the time they come back. They’re more well-trained and that helps us a lot.”

Zorrilla says there are cats and dogs available with new litters that must stay together when they’re very young. Single animals are available and can be seen on the shelter website, along with foster applications. 

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2 p.m.

Two people who tested positive for COVID-19 in East Baton Rouge Parish died over the weekend, marking the first deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the capital city.

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark announced Monday that a 90-year-old man from Woodville, Mississippi died on Saturday and a 44-year-old woman from Baton Rouge died on Sunday.

Both patients were awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test when they died. Clark’s office determined through lab tests that COVID-19 was the cause of death for both individuals.

Read more

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Noon

Since Sunday morning, 14 more people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, the state health department reported at noon.

In all, 34 people have died.

The number of known cases of COVID-19 in the state is now 1,172. That's a 40 percent increase from Sunday morning.

The state lab has completed 1,634 tests. Commercial labs have completed 4,314 tests.

There are known COVID-19 cases in 41 of the 64 parishes. Orleans Parish has the most known cases, 567, as well has the highest number of deaths, 20.

Jefferson Parish has 252 known cases, and five people there have died.

East Baton Rouge: 43 cases, 1 death

Ascension: 26 cases, 1 death

Ouachita: 9 cases, 1 death

Rapides: 8 cases, 1 death

St. James: 8 cases, 1 death

West Baton Rouge: 4 cases, 2 death

Webster: 3 cases, 1 death

Washington: 2 cases, 1 death

Catahoula: 1 case, 1 death

St. Tammany: 47 cases

Caddo: 34 cases

St. John the Baptist: 16 cases

Lafourche: 15 cases

St. Bernard: 15 cases

St. Charles: 15 cases

Terrebonne: 14 cases

Bossier: 12 cases

Iberville: 10 cases

Lafayette: 9 cases

Plaquemines: 8 cases

De Soto: 5 cases

Livingtston: 5 cases

Calcasieu: 4 cases

Iberia: 3 cases

St. Landry: 3 cases

Tangipahoa: 3 cases

Allen: 2 cases

Claiborne: 2 cases

Evangeline: 2 cases

Lincoln: 2 cases

Natchitoches: 2 cases

Richland: 2 cases

Acadia: 1 case

Assumption: 1 case

Avoyelles: 1 case

Beauregard: 1 case

Bienville: 1 case

Grant: 1 case

St. Mary 1 case

The increase in cases comes as more and more people have been tested in the state, as new testing sites have come online.

Three drive-through sites have opened in the last several days in the New Orleans area: in the parking lot of the Mahalia Jackson Theater, in the parking lot of the UNO Lakefront Arena, and in the parking lot of the Alario Center in Westwego.

Anyone with symptoms can get tested for the coronavirus at those sites, though each can only perform a limited number of tests per day. Each site in Orleans Parish can perform 100 tests per day. The Alario Center location can perform 250 per day.

The Louisiana National Guard is helping coordinate the testing at each location.

On Friday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a stay-at-home order to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. People are only allowed to leave their homes to do essential things — like go to the grocery store or pharmacy -- or to exercise. Only a few industries are allowed to report to work.

Governor John Bel Edwards issued similar, statewide restrictions over the weekend.

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  March 22, 2020

2:30 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says all residents should avoid all nonessential travel and stay at home as much as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. Edwards announced the "stay-at-home" order at a press conference Sunday afternoon. He says it will go into effect Monday at 6 p.m. 

The order follows similar "shelter in place" directives issued by governors in California, New York and Illlinois. 

According to Edwards, residents are allowed to do essential tasks such as going to medical appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies. A similar call for travel restrictions was announced last Friday by New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell.  

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10 a.m.

The Louisiana Department of Health's latest update showed 837 positive COVID-19 cases across the state. Most have been reported in New Orleans metro area tbut the latest statistics show more than half of the state's 64 parishes have reported positive cases. 20 people have died so far. 

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  March 21, 2020

1 p.m.

The total number of positive cases of the coronavirus in Louisiana climbed to 585 with the overwhelming majority reported in New Orleans metro area, according to statistics released Saturday by the Louisiana Department of Health.

The health department also reported that two more people have died from the virus raising the death toll to 16. 

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March 20, 2020

5:30 p.m. 

Another two people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the state health department. 

The total number of known cases in the state has reached 537. The cases are in 28 of 64 counties. The vast majority — 326  — are in Orleans Parish.

The state has completed 1,084 tests. The health department is now reporting the number of tests completed in commercial labs: 847

Of those cases, 299 are in New Orleans. There case known COVID-19 cases in 25 of the 64 parishes.

The state lab has complete 1,047 tests.

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March 19, 2020

6:20 p.m.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission has expanded its staff to help process the surge of unemployment claims they have received following the coronavirus shutdown.

Compared to last week, there’s been a 1,400 percent increase in the number claims.

Eva Dejoie, the secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said their call center is working around the clock to process the 30,000 unemployment claims that were filed this week. That’s a stark increase from the 1,700 people that filed the week prior.

Read more

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5:40 p.m.

One of the biggest challenges Louisiana has faced since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is testing. That’s been true for residents trying to figure out how to get care, and for medical professionals trying to provide it.  

CrescentCare, the sexual health and HIV health clinic in New Orleans, has not only been ramping up it’s own testing capabilities, it’s figured out a creative way to get more tests. The clinic also serves a younger population — something that could be key in the wake of new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 40 percent of hospitalized patients in the U.S. have been people between the ages of 20 and 54.

New Orleans Public Radio spoke with Dr. Jason Halperin, the HIV and infectious diseases clinical lead at CrescentCare, to learn how that clinic is responding to the pandemic.

Read more

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5:30 p.m.

With the last report of the day from the Louisiana Department of Health, the number of known COVID-19 cases in Louisiana is 392.

That's up 112 since this time yesterday.

The state lab has completed 899 tests.

There are COVID-19 cases in 26 of 64 parishes that we know of. There are 249 known cases in Orleans Parish alone. Jefferson Parish has the second highest number of known cases — 69.

Ten people have died.

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3:30 p.m.

Two more people have died of COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

That's 10 deaths from the disease caused by coronavirus in the state as the total number of cases climbs to 380.

Gov. John Bel Edwards says the state’s health care system could be overwhelmed by the coronavirus in as little as one week without intervention by the federal government.

Edwards made the prediction on a conference call with President Donald Trump, FEMA administrators, and other governors.

“Coronavirus spread and its impact could begin to outpace our healthcare capacity in a certain region — down in the Orleans, Jefferson region — in about seven to 10 days without additional help from the federal government,” Edwards said.

Read more

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3:30 p.m.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton tested positive for coronavirus, ESPN first reported Thursday.  

Payton said he decided to share the diagnosis with ESPN because he wants people to follow official advice about social distancing.

"This is not just about social distancing," he told ESPN. "It's shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It's not complicated to do what they're asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact."

Payton is the first person connected to the NFL to test positive for COVID-19.

Read more

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12:50 p.m.

NOLA Public Schools purchased 5,000 wireless hotspots this week to help improve internet access for students at home, according to a statement from the school district.

Many local schools have already started trying to educate their students remotely, by sending home physical work packets and offering links to online educational resources.

But not all students have the same access to the internet, so NOLA Public Schools bought 5,000 wireless hotspots this week. The district has not yet said how it plans to distribute those to students — or which students might get them.

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10:20 a.m.

New Orleans is emerging as the next major hotspot for COVID-19.

A breakdown of known coronavirus cases at the county level appears to show Orleans Parish — home to New Orleans -- far outpacing other jurisdictions in COVID-19 rate per capita in the U.S.  

Read more

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9:30 a.m.

Another person in the state has died of COVID-19, the Louisiana Department of Health reported Thursday morning.

The 60-year-old resident of St. James Parish is the eighth person to die of COVID-19 in Louisiana and the first person to die of the virus in the parish.

The latest count of cases from LDH took an unsurprising jump up to 347. There are 231 cases in Orleans Parish.

Gov. John Bel Edwards warned yesterday that the numbers would be sharply increasing as more testing is completed.

The state lab has completed 805 tests.

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March 18, 2020

6:10 p.m.

Organizers of Essence Festival of Culture have said the event — scheduled for July 1-5 — isn't postponed yet.

They are, however, securing possible alternate dates, according to a statement.

"Our first priority will always be the safety and well-being of our Festival-goers and everyone who contributes to making the Essence Festival of Culture such an enriching, entertaining and incredible experience, and we will continue to evaluate the situation and use all available resources and intelligence to that end," the statement says. "We are closely monitoring the unfolding developments and updated information from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health agencies and our partners in the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana."

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6 p.m.

Restaurants are trying to quickly adjust to new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in the state. As ordered by state and local officials, dine-in restaurants are limited to take-out service only, fast-food restaurants can only serve via drive-through, and bars have been completely shuttered (except for some take-out service).

So, what’s open?

Below is a neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to at least a few places currently offering takeout and delivery. 

Read more

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5:30 p.m.

As of Wednesday evening, there are 280 known cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the state health department.

The state lab has completed 703 tests (and that number does not include commercial testing).

Seven people have died — six of them in New Orleans.

There are 196 known cases in Orleans Parish. 

There are 45 known cases in Jefferson Parish, and one person there has died.

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2:40 p.m.

Speaking on WWNO/WRKF's Ask The Governor, Gov. Edwards announced that a seventh person has died from coronavirus.

The victim is from Jefferson Parish — and represents the first fatality outside Orleans Parish from the deadly virus. 

A press release following the announcement said the person was 72 years old.

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12:30 p.m.

A sixth person has died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, the state health department reports.

The person was a 92-year-old resident of Lambeth House in New Orleans. 

Earlier today, LDH reported that a 98-year-old Lambeth House resident had died.

All six deaths from COVID-19 in Louisiana have been in New Orleans — four of them in Lambeth House, which has 13 cases in all. 

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12:30 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards in a Wednesday afternoon press conference said the total number of COVID-19 cases in Louisiana is now 257 — and that it's expected to quickly grow.

"We're going to get test results — probably over 1,000 test results — all at one time," the governor said.

"This is going to get much worse before it gets better. We need these cases to plateau as soon as possible and obviously start declining. But we're a long ways from that."

Read more

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11 a.m.

While the elderly are at a greater risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, everyone is susceptible. 

These are the latest numbers from the state health department: 

  • 12 cases among people ages 12-18 
  • 32 cases among people ages 30-39 
  • 56 cases among people ages 40-49 
  • 50 cases among people ages 50-59
  • 44 cases among people ages 60-69
  • 46 cases among people ages 70+

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10:40 a.m.

A fifth person has died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The person was a 98-year-old resident of Lambeth House in New Orleans.

All five people who have died in Louisiana of COVID-19 were Orleans Parish residents.

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9:40 a.m

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Louisiana is up to 240 as of the latest Louisiana Department of Health updated Wednesday morning.

Thar's an increase of 44 cases overnight.

No one else has been reported dead from the disease.

There are 176 known cases in New Orleans. That's an increase of 40 since last night.

The parish with the second highest number of cases is Jefferson, with 37.

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Marh 17. 2020

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2020 has been rescheduled from April 23 to May 3 until the fall, organizers announced Tuesday evening.

This is the first time in its 50-year run that the festival has been postponed. Months after Hurricane Katrina, Jazz Fest brought an influx of visitors to the storm-ravaged city.

Read more

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6:50 p.m.

Louisiana is taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in state prisons and jails.

On Tuesday, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux announced strict visitation limits at the parish jail, in the latest effort to limit the spread of coronavirus among vulnerable populations. District Attorney Hillar Moore, meanwhile, said his office is looking into ways to reduce the jail population while balancing considerations of public health and public safety.

Prosecutors are working with public defenders and judges to identify inmates who would be good candidates for early release. Moore said his office is looking for medically fragile or older inmates who have been charged with certain nonviolent offenses.

“We’re looking for cases that we can potentially resolve through a dismissal, a plea or some kind of bond reduction,” Moore said, adding that his office has identified “about 70” individuals. He said there is no timetable for when those people might be released.

Read more

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6:30 p.m.

Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to cancel the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, also known as LEAP.ESE made the request in a letter to the governor Monday, and also included requests to waive a number of other educational requirements. The letter was written by BESE President Sandy Holloway and House Education Committee Chairman Ray Garofalo.

“In the unprecedented times we face, we must afford our educators the most flexibility in the important work they do,” Holloway and Garofalo wrote. “With that in mind, we have joined together to support efforts to afford them the most flexibility moving forward.”

Read more

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  5:45 p.m.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a 60-day deferment of late fees on sales tax payments for New Orleans businesses during a press conference Tuesday evening.

As the city ramps up its response to the pandemic, the coffers are dwindling. Cantrell said state and federal money will be crucial to avoid a financial disaster. The first three months of the year — particularly sales taxes from Mardi Gras — generate a major portion of the operating budget. 

The financial hit the city will take could lead to furloughs, layoffs and contract cancelations. 

Read more

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4:45 p.m. 

The latest update from the Louisiana Department of Health shows 196 known cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana. 

No more people have died since this morning.

There are now cases in 13 out of 64 parishes. East Baton Rouge Parish has its first known case. New Orleans is up to 136.

The state lab has completed 531 tests. 

LDH has begun sharing some demographic data on the COVID-19 cases — specifically number of cases per age group:

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Noon

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will begin reducing the frequency of buses, streetcars and ferries to help minimize the community spread of COVID-19, according to a press release.

Read more

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9:30 a.m.

A fourth person has died of COVID-19 in Louisiana.  

The latest report from the Louisiana Department of Health puts the total number of known COVID-19 cases in the state at 171 — up 35 from yesterday evening.

The virus has now been found in 12 of the state's 64 parishes. The state lab has completed 457 tests.

The majority of the cases  — 116 — are in Orleans Parish. Here are the rest: 

Jefferson: 31

St. Tammany: 6

Caddo: 4

St. Charles: 3

Terrebonne: 3

Lafourche: 2

St. Bernard: 2

Ascension: 1

Bossier: 1

St. John the Baptist: 1

Washington: 1

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March 16, 2020

5:30 p.m.

Spread out among eight locations in the city, schools in New Orleans served 2,500 grab-and-go meals to students Monday, according to a press release from NOLA Public Schools.

A public school shutdown is in effect until April 13 to help curb the spread of coronavirus. That's left school districts scrambling to provide meals to students who rely on them. Many are opting to provide take-out style meals at school locations.

Eight sites doled out food on Monday in the New Orleans area, and more sites are expected to come online this week.

A citywide nutrition plan will be put into effect on Monday, March 23.

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4 p.m.  

A third person in Louisiana has died of COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday afternoon.

All three deaths have been in New Orleans. The person who died today was an 84-year-old resident of Lambeth House.

There are now 136 cases of COVID-19 in the state — 95 of which are in Orleans Parish. The state lab has completed 302 tests.

Edwards said Louisiana has “one of highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the country — which means that we are at risk for exceeding the ability to deliver healthcare” unless we slow the spread of infection.

Two rapid testing sites are being set up in New Orleans and one is being set up in Jefferson Parish in order to quickly test and diagnose health care staff and those especially vulnerable to the virus, like the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Baton Rouge has also added a rapid testing site.

Meanwhile, the state has closed Bayou Segnette park in Westwego in order to set it up as a staging area. Assistant state health officer Joseph Kanter says the park may be used to house people who are sick and are homeless or don’t have secure housing.

"If an individual has a test pending and the test is gonna take a few days to come back, and they have symptoms but not enough to be in the hospital — we can’t have the individual going back into a homeless shelter for example, or into a house where they might affect people that are seriously at risk," Kanter said.

The department of health recommends COVID-19 testing for anyone with a fever, respiratory symptoms and a negative flu test.

Ochsner has set up emergency flu clinics for people experiencing these symptoms at their urgent care clinics in Mid City New Orleans, Houma and Mandeville.

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3:30 p.m.

Following Gov. John Bel Edwards' order to close bars, casinos and movie theaters throughout Louisiana, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has ordered closed New Orleans bars, nightclubs, casinos, malls, gyms and entertainment venues.

Restaurants will be open only for take-out or delivery, as Gov. Edwards ordered.

All public and private gatherings are banned.

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3:15 p.m.  

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted 100-1 to adjourn until March 31 amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

Rep. Stuart Bishop sponsored the concurrent resolution. On the House floor he urged his fellow members to heed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggested the prohibition of gatherings of 10-or-more people.

“This is a step of caution for this body, for the staff and for the people of Louisiana,” Bishop said.

Rep. Phillip Tarver (R-Lake Charles) was the only house member to object.

“We are a state and a nation that is embroiled in difficult times — not unusual for us,” Tarver said. “It is our duty as leaders of our state to conduct our business.”

The Senate is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. and is expected to vote on a similar measure.

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Signs at Paul Habans Charter School point students, parent, and caregivers where to pick up their meals and distance-learning materials, others offer reminders about how to help minimize the spread of coronavirus.
Credit Travis Lux / WWNO

3 p.m.

The scene outside Paul Habans Charter School was friendly and organized Monday morning as parents and caregivers filtered in to pick up lunches for students who are no longer able to attend school due to the statewide cancellation.

Along the front wall of the building, teachers stood behind folding tables with stacks of styrofoam to-go boxes, ready to hand them out to students, parents or caregivers. Signs clearly marked the lines for Habans students and non-Habans students.

On the menu today: Sausage, biscuits and milk for breakfast. For lunch: chicken alfredo, corn and a roll (whole wheat, by the looks of it).

For those who preferred to stay in their cars, a separate table was staged closer to the parking lot for drive-through pickup.

On the front lawn, there was a makeshift school store, complete school supplies, books and packaged snacks. According to a sign, all items were being given away for free, though with daily limits.

Inside the school building, the cafeteria had been turned into a staging area for distance learning materials, with workbooks and packets neatly arranged on tables by grade level.

Read more

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2:15 p.m.

The coronavirus has hit New Orleans’ hospitality industry especially hard. Most workers don’t have paid sick leave or health insurance. Working remotely isn’t an option. And the city’s new social distancing measures will result in fewer shifts and job cuts.

The City Council recently sent a letter to New Orleans & Company, which represents the city’s tourism industry, asking it to encourage businesses to provide workers with testing, medical care and paid sick leave.

New Orleans Public Radio spoke with Councilwoman Kristin Palmer about the city’s efforts to address the hardships that hospitality workers now face.

Read more

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1:10 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced new, stricter social distancing measures across Louisiana in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.

Gatherings are now limited to 50 people. Bars, casinos and movie theaters must close, and restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery orders.

The new rules go into effect at midnight, according to a press release. Business as usually could resume on April 13, but that will be reevaluated one week out.

The press release also said the total number of cases in Louisiana is now 132.

“These limitations were difficult to make, but they are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the health of Louisianans and flatten the curve," Edwards said in a statement. 

“What we’re learning is that it can take two weeks for symptoms to appear. We believe we are still unearthing community spread that’s been around for the past several weeks, which means it is a statewide problem that requires statewide solutions. In addition to meeting with Sen. Bill Cassidy this morning who is supportive of our efforts, I was also on a call with President Trump and Vice President Pence that lasted more than an hour and they were very clear that we must significantly expand our mitigation efforts to slow the progress of COVID-19 before there is more community spread. Action must be taken now, even in areas where there are no confirmed cases yet.”

---

As of Monday morning, there are 114 known COVID-19 cases in Louisiana, 79 of which are in New Orleans.

There are 16 cases in Jefferson Parish, five cases in St. Tammany Parish, three each in Caddo and St. Charles parishes, two each in St. Bernard, Lafourche and Terrbonne parishes, and one each in Bossier and St. John the Baptist parishes.

Two people have died. 

The state lab has complete 284 tests.

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March 15, 2020

6:50 p.m.

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Louisiana has reached 103. 

Seventy-five of those cases are in Orleans Parish. 

Jefferson Parish has 14 cases.

St. Tammany: 4

Caddo: 2

St. Charles: 2

Terrebonne: 2

Bosier: 1

Lafourche: 1 

St. Bernard: 1

St. John the Baptist: 1

The state has complete 284 lab tests.

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6:30 p.m.

Following a press conference in which she stressed the need for social distancing, Mayor LaToya Cantrell released social distancing rules for New Orleans bars and restaurants.

The rules are in effect immediately and no end date was given. There will be enforcement, but a press release did not specify what that would look like.

Here are the rules, as laid out in the release:

  • All full-service restaurants with seating cease operations at 9 p.m. daily. Further they will work to limit their seating capacity for social distancing whether it is removing tables/chairs or using a checkerboard type seating pattern to provide more guest spacing. The goal is to reduce seating by up to 50 percent. Employers will continue to monitor employees and ask employees to regularly take their own temperature. As supplies allow, employers will also assist. This goes for beverage/bar servers. Employers will continue to post signs for enhanced cleaning processes and how to maintain good health.
  • Once the dining room closes, a restaurant can still offer delivery until its usual closing time. The quick-service or fast-casual establishments can only offer "drive-thru" service but can be extended to 24 hours if they so choose.
  • Bars and nightclubs will cease service at 12 a.m. daily. They will limit their capacity to up to 50 percent of posted patron limit. Last call will be at 11:15 pm. Everyone must be out and headed home by 12 am.
  • Hotel operations will adhere to above operating times for their restaurants and bar operations as well as limiting capacity.
  • Operators will post notice to patrons that when they depart to please consider returning home.
  • Operators will not allow gathering for waiting for seating, or access purposes. They will implement use of text messaging to advise if the table is ready.
  • Operators will encourage no public gatherings in any area. Once patrons exit the premises of restaurants or bars, they may not loiter in the street or congregate in groups outside. This will be enforced city-wide.
  • Tour groups will be limited to groups of no more than seven (7) at a time.

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3 p.m.

New Orleans one of four cities in the U.S. entering a federal pilot program for drive-through coronavirus testing, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced in press conference Sunday afternoon.

She said should could not share more, as the details are still being sorted out.

Cantell also hammered home the importance of social distancing.

"Social disatncing is not a buzzword. It's not a buzzword," she said. "It's a reality and it's what we're asking all of us to do."

Businesses will remain open, but Cantrell said there will be "more to come" on an effort to minimize the number of people inside businesses at any time.

The rate of cases is rising by the day and even by the hour, she said. 

"We're losing loved ones."

New Orleans Health Department Director Jennifer Avegno said cases are appearing in New Orleans at a faster rate than elsewhere.

"From what we know right now, there is signifcant community spread of COVID-19 in New Orleans," she said, "and it has already resulted in two deaths."

Read more

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9:30 a.m.

A 53-year-old with underlying medical conditions has died of COVID-19 in New Orleans, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced.

This is the second person to die from the disease caused by coronavirus in Lousiana. The total number of cases is now 91.

The second patient to die was being cared for at Touro Infirmary.

"As the number of positive cases continues to rise, we need every person to take the necessary actions to help reduce the spread of this virus," Edwards said in a statement. "It is an extremely serious situation that demands all of our attention. Our elderly and those with chronic health conditions are the most vulnerable, but we all need to act responsibly and look out for ourselves and our neighbors."

Shortly after the announcement, Mayor LaToya Cantrell  said on Twitter that the second person to die was a friend of hers.

"...but everyone of those impacted by this outbreak is someone’s friend, someone’s loved one," she added. "Our people are being hurt by this, and we all have a role to play in trying to keep them safe."

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9:15 a.m.

New Orleans police drove with lights on down Bourbon Street on Saturday night, attempting to clear out the crowds.

"Your actions are jeopardizing public health," an officer said. "We are directing you to clear the streets, go home or go back to your hotels."

On Sunday morning, the City of New Orleans tweeted that police "will be strictly enforcing the ban on large gatherings.

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March 15, 2020

5:00 p.m.

The first confirmed death related to COVID-19 was announced by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration Saturday. 

The patient was a descibed as a 58-year-old man in Orleans Parish with underlying health conditions. The man was being treated at Touro infirmary in New Orleans. 

"This underscores the fact that those with underlying health issues are most at risk from the coronavirus," Gov. Edwards said in a statement. "Those with compromised immune systems and are older should be taking estra precautions to avoid becoming affected with coronavirus." 

The Louisiana Department of Health also announced ten new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state-wide total to 77. 

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2:00 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Saturday afternoon that the number of presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Louisiana has climbed to 67.

The news came in the press conference shortly after a meeting of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (GOHSEP) Unified Command Group this morning. He could not say where the new cases were discovered.

The Louisiana Department of Health said on its website that it has not yet determined the parish of residence for three of the presumptively positive individuals. One infected individual from a neighboring state is being treated in Louisiana.

A parish-by-parish breakdown will be made available on the Louisiana Department of Health website by 5 p.m.

Preventative Measures

Edwards said he’s confident the aggressive measures the state took on Friday will slow the spread of the virus. Those measures include increasing state and commercial testing, closing K-12 school across the state, prohibiting events with more than 250 people, and limiting visitation at hospitals, nursing homes and state prisons.

But Edwards also said it is likely that the state will see more cases emerge in the coming days because of community spread before those restrictions took effect. “There are not a whole lot of other things that can be done, and they’re more drastic,” Edwards said.

He pointed to the one-mile containment zone that the State of New York set up around the city of New Rochelle, which is just a 30-minute drive from Manhattan.

Edwards said state officials are not yet discussing the implementation of similar measures in Louisiana. “The additional measures are very restrictive, and we don’t have a recommendation from the CDC to do those things because the facts on the ground do not warrant them.”

Reporters entering the GOHSEP Headquarters for the briefing had their temperatures taken. Similar measures will be implemented at the state capitol when the legislature resumes operations on Monday.

Testing

Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant state health officer, said 178 people are under investigation by the state, meaning the state health lab has conducted COVID-19 tests on those individuals because they met stringent testing requirements.

But Edwards added that the state has conducted “surveillance testing” on an undisclosed number of individuals in an effort to maximize the number of samples that can be rapidly processed in the state lab. The state health lab is conducting COVID-19 tests three times a day.

State health officials are encouraging healthcare providers to order a commercial COVID-19 for any patient with a fever, respiratory symptoms and a negative flu test.Commercial labs take approximately four days to complete the tests. So far, the state has received seven test results from commercial labs, Billioux said.

Edwards said the state is in communication with the CDC on allocating resources to set up a drive-through testing location in the New Orleans area.

The next press briefing is tentatively scheduled for Monday, but another weekend briefing could be called if the circumstances warrant.

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March 13, 2020

4:50 p.m.

New Orleans Pelicans star rookie Zion Williamson said he'll pay Smoothie King Center workers for 30 days while NBA games are suspended, NOLA.com's Christian Clark reports.

Williamson made the announcement on Instagram:

The people of New Orleans have been incredibly welcoming and supportive since I was Drafted by the Pels last June, and some of the most special people I have met are those who work at smoothie King Center. These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus. My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days. This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis. This is an incredibly resilient city full of some of the most resilient people, but sometimes providing a little extra assistance can make things a little easier for the community.

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3:15 p.m.  

At an emergency board meeting Friday afternoon, the Orleans Parish School Board approved the emergency spending of $5 million for coronavirus-related expenditures. That includes distance learning resources and technology, sanitation services, and meal delivery to students, but an official plan has not yet been released, leaving questions about when such resources might be made available.

The proclamation from Gov. Edwards also suspends the required number of minutes students must receive instruction per year, which would likely remove the need for classes to be made up later. 

Read more

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3 p.m.

The Louisiana Department of Health now reports 36 presumptively positive COVID-19 cases, up three from this morning.

Still none have been confirmed by the CDC. No one has died.

The count by parish stands at:

Caddo: 1

Lafourche: 1

Jefferson: 3

Orleans: 26

St. Bernard: 1

St. Charles: 1

St. Tammany: 2

Terrebonne: 1

---

2:30 p.m.

President Trump has declared a national emergency in response to the spread of coronavirus in the United States.

The move opens up access to $50 billion of aid.

Trump also ordered every state to set up emergency operations centers and every hospital to activate its emergency preparedness plan.

---

2:15 p.m.

The Louisiana Department of Health has new criteria for testing patients for COVID-19, it announced this afternoon.

It will now test any patient with fever, respiratory symptoms and a negative influenza test.

"Providers should use commercial labs for any specimens collected with the exception of high priority patients," it said in a press release.

The state public health lab will continue to test samples of high-priority patients who meet the following criteria:

  • Hospitalized patients with a severe respiratory illness with no other known cause 
  • Suspected outbreak of COVID-19 among associated individuals with recent onset of similar fever and lower respiratory symptoms
  • Recent fever and lower respiratory symptoms in a healthcare worker with direct contact to a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case
  • Suspected COVID-19 in a patient associated with a high-risk exposure setting such as a long-term care facility or a correctional facility

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1 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a proclamation immediately halting the gather of more than 250 people until April 13. 

That means all K-12 public schools are closed effective Monday.

"We are at an inflection point now and we are going to take bold action to minimize the further spread of this illness," Edwards wrote in a tweeted statement.

The decision is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the community spread the state is now experiencing, Edwards said.

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11:30 a.m.

The state has postponed its presidential primary by more than two months in response to the spread of coronavirus.

Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin made the announcement in a press conference late Friday morning.

The closed primary was set for April 4. It will now happen on June 20. 

"While hurricanes, floods and tornados are at the forefront of all Louisianans minds, the threat we face from the COVID-19 virus is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced," Ardoin said.

Louisiana law allows the governor to postpone elections with an executive order declaring a state of emergency, and the secretary of state must agree to it. Ardoin did so today.

"We will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate the situation in the lead-up to the June election," he said. 

This is not the first time a Lousiana election has been postponed. Ardoin said it happened in 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and in 2008 after Hurricane Gustav.

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11:10 a.m.

Originally scheduled for April 16 to 19, French Quarter Fest has been postponed until Oct. 1 to 4. 

"Our top priority is the health and safety of our fans, artists, staff, volunteers, sponsors, and community," fesitval organizers said on Twitter.

---

Waldorf School of New Orleans is closing for two weeks, beginning at noon Friday.

In a message sent to the school community, Board President Ram Mettu and Head of School Joe Peychaud said the decision was made to try to prevent the possibility of community spread.

Parents were asked to remove personal items from student cubbies, and were told both campuses of the school would be professionally sanitized before school resumes. Students are expected to return to school on March 30, “pending no further developments.”

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9:10 a.m.

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Louisiana took a big jump up overnight.

We now know of 33 presumptive positive cases in Louisiana — all presumptively positive and still none confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.

New Orleans still has the most cases — 23.

The number of parishes where there's at least one known case is up:

Caddo: 1

Lafourche: 1 

Jefferson: 3

New Orleans: 23

St. Bernard: 1

St. Charles: 1

St. Tammany: 1

Terrebonne: 1

NOLA.com's Ramon Antonio Vargas reports that five of these cases are at Lambeth House retirement community.

---

Starting Monday, Jewish Community Day School, located in Metairie, will begin remote instruction for at least two weeks. After that, the school will continue reevaluating whether and when to reopen, Head of School Brad Philipson said by phone Friday morning.

Philipson said student work will be comprised of work packets, online work and virtual check-ins with teachers. He stressed that teachers will have direct interaction with each of their students at least a couple of times per week during this period.

Philipson added that the decision "was not made in isolation." In talking to leaders of other schools in the area, he said, he is getting the sense that this is "very much the way things are going."

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March 12, 2020

We're beginning to learn of COVID-19 cases outside of Louisiana tied to Mardi Gras.

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reports that two Shelby County, Tennessee people with COVID-19 traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. 

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4:40 p.m.  

The Louisiana Health Department reports 19 presumptively positive COVID-19 cases in the state as of 4:30 p.m. — up five from this morning.

None have been confirmed by the CDC.

Fifteen cases were found in Orleans Parish residents, two in Jefferson Parish residents, one in a Lafourche Parish resident and one in a Caddo Parish resident. 

---

Buku Fest has been pushed back, organizers announced this afternoon.

A statement from the Buku Project says they were told by Mayor LaToya Crantrell that the event could not go on as planned March 20-21.

"No doubt, this sucks," organizers wrote in the statement. "But we are at peace with the Mayor's decision because we love you guys and genuinely care about your health and wellbeing."

If you purchased tickets, they will be honored in September. If you can't make it Labor Day weekend, you'll be able to get a refund. Information on refunds will go out to ticketholders this week. Tickets are no longer on sale, for now. 

---

4:20 p.m.

The Sewage & Water Board of New Orleans announced this afternoon that it has suspended water service shut-offs for the duration of the city's state of emergency and is restoring service to homes that have been disconnected.

Restoration will begin with the most recent shut-offs and will also prioritize seniors or people with chronic medical conditions who call and ask for their service to be restored.

SWB is also eliminating fees on online bill payments in order to encourage social distancing.

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4:15 p.m.

The Orleans Parish School Board declared a state of emergency Thursday, March 12 in response to the worsening coronavirus crisis. The move frees up the possibility of emergency spending.

At a meeting today, officials with NOLA Public Schools updated the board about its coronavirus planning. Officials are currently making plans for distance learning, should schools be shut down due to exposure risk. That could involve purchasing and distributing wireless hotspots to students.

The district also said it planned to serve meals to students who rely on schools for them. Officials are currently looking at how to make that possible, but said it could involve making deliveries via existing yellow school bus routes.

---

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) does not at this time expect to make any changes to bus, streetcar, ferry or paratransit service.

In addition to the usual wipe-downs, mopping, sweeping and trash removal, RTA is spraying vehicles with disinfectant. Cleaning happens every 48 to 72 hours.

More information can be found at rtaforward.org or by calling Rideline at 504-248-3900.

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1:20 p.m.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has postponed all public events in East Baton Rouge Parish.

"Effective immediately, I am issuing an executive order to declare a public health emergency in East Baton Rouge Parish," Broome said in a press release. "As of this morning, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the parish — this is a proactive measure that is aligned with Governor John Bel Edwards’ proclamation for a statewide emergency."

This applies to permitted public events, the press release says. Private events are up to the discretion of the organizers.

"If you plan to attend an event, I strongly encourage you to use discretion and practice social distancing, by refraining from hugging, kissing and shaking hands," Broome wrote. "The CDC advises staying 6 feet away from other individuals."

Broome said the risk in East Baton Rouge "remains low" and she is working with local and federal health officials.

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1 p.m.

As Jennifer Crockett at WDSU first reported New Harmony High School has abruptly closed, sending students home in the middle of the day.

A call to the school, New Orleans Public Radio learned the school will be closed today and tomorrow.

In a recorded message on the school’s main voicemail, New Harmony founder Sunny Dawn Summers said a family member of a student “had an unconfirmed, possible community exposure to the coronavirus, not due to international travel.” The school does not believe any students, faculty or staff have been directly exposed, but that the decision to close for two days was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

Lycée Francais made the decision to close yesterday.

We're keeping track of schools' responses to coronavirus here.

---

New York Times reporter Siobhan Roberts explains what it means to "flatten the curve" — and why we should all care. 

The gentler curve ultimately results in fewer people infected and fewer deaths. “What we need to do is flatten that down,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Tuesday evening. “You do that with trying to interfere with the natural flow of the outbreak.”

Read more

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11:20 a.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced this morning that the state would put restrictions on visiting nursing homes, jails and prisons for 30 days.

Details will be announced later today.

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9:30 a.m.

The number of presumptively positive cases of COVID-19 is now 14, as of this morning's update from the Louisiana Department of Health.

Eleven of those are Orleans Parish residents, one is a Jefferson Parish Resident, one is a Lafourche Parish Resident and one is a Caddo Parish resident.

Those people are hospitalized in Caddo, Iberia, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. 

NOLA.com's Sam Karlin reports that the new case is at Lambeth House — the fourth case there.

---

March 11, 2020

6:30 p.m.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has declared a state of emergency in order to to unlock funds to help deal with the outbreak.

The city is also instituting social distancing measures in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. Slowing it down helps minimize the stress placed on health care systems.

Two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff members are coming to New Orleans to offer assistance.

The New Orleans Health Department, meanwhile, is in communication with Lambeth House regarding the three presumptively positive cases found there and limiting the spread, and has issued new guidance for nursing homes.

Seven first responders have been quarantined after transporting an individual believed to have coronavirus while not wearing protective gear. 

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5:50 p.m.

The number of presumptively positive cases rose by seven today. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced this evening that the total number has reached 13.

He has declared a statewide public health emergency.

Three of those 13 cases are at Lambeth House retirement community in Uptown.

The first six known cases were all found in Orleans Parish residents, but the new cases cover much of southern Lousiana, plus one up north. Cases are in Orleans, Jefferson, Iberia, Lafourche, St. Tammany and Caddo parishes.

The governor also announced regular coronavirus updates going forward, at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

"We are expecting more cases in the coming days and weeks," he said in a statement. "As we learn more, we know that there is community spread in Louisiana and I am asking all Louisianans to remain vigilant and take important measures to protect their health and reduce the spread of illness."

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5 p.m.

Jefferson Parish has canceled two events expected to draw large crowds of people: this weekend's St. Patrick's Day Parade and next weekend's Louisiana Irish-Italian Parade.

Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said the parish is trying to straddle the concerns of allowing regular life to continue as normally as possible while also making decisions in the best interest of public health. She said the events were canceled out of concern for the sheer density of people expected to attend.

Until further notice, the parish has also canceled all non-essential social programming for seniors with more than 50 expected attendees. Sheng said that decision was made because seniors are more vulnerable to the virus. She said that will not affect programs like meals on wheels delivery.

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4:15 p.m.

Not long after the University of New Orleans announced its decision to transition to remote classes on Monday, Loyola University New Orleans announced that it will do the same.

In fact, Loyola classes will be held remotely for the rest of the spring semester.

Classes have been completely canceled Thursday and Friday to give instructors time to prepare for remote teaching.

More information can be found here.

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4 p.m.

As of now, there are six presumed cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana, all of them in residents of Orleans Parish.

New Orleans city agencies offered updates on how they’re preparing for and mitigating the risks of the virus today. The virus is expected to continue to spread.

Gov. John Bel Edwards will provide updates on the state response during a press conference with the Unified Command task force at 5:30 p.m. Edwards’ office said the Louisiana Office of Public Health’s State Laboratory is now able to test for the virus in-state, using the testing guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office held a press conference with updates at 4 p.m., and Jefferson Parish officials will offer an update at 4:30 p.m.

Transportation, health and school officials gave briefings to city counselors this morning on how they’re preparing. Schools are still open, but officials are monitoring the situation closely and are prepared to shut schools down and move to online homework if need be. UNO has announced it will move to online courses.

Howard Rodgers, the executive director of the New Orleans Council on Aging, said the elderly are particularly at risk and encouraged group homes to limit social activities and practice good hygiene.

Public health officials from Ochsner and LCMC say they are worried about staffing shortages as staff contract the virus, and encouraged people who think they might have contracted it to call their hotline, rather than showing up at emergency rooms. The Ochsner number is 1-800-231-5257 or 504-842-3155. The state Department of Health’s hotline is 855-523-2652.

Officials reiterated the effectiveness of “social distancing,” and recommended keeping a 6-foot distance from others.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is screening all visitors. Officials say they have provided training to staff, and that if any detainee needed to be quarantined before or after release, the jail would provide housing.

Director of the Louis Armstrong Airport, Kevin Dolliole, said the airport does not currently have any restrictions on international travel and is in communication with federal authorities. Some airlines are cutting the frequency of their flights. Flights from MSY to San Francisco are being suspended.

Officials with the Regional Transit Authority said services will continue as usual for now, and they’ll continue to regularly clean buses and ferries. It’s possible that services will eventually be limited as the virus spreads.

---

3:30 p.m.  

Starting Monday, the University of New Orleans will switch all in-person classes to remote instruction "until further notice," the school announced in press release.

It's also canceling any university-sponsored events at which more than 50 attendees are expected.

“While none of the presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Orleans Parish is connected to the University of New Orleans community — as far as we know — it is imperative that we take decisive action before the outbreak becomes more widespread in our area,” UNO President John Nicklow said in a statement. “We are implementing these reasonable, science-based safeguards in an effort to protect our campus community and to improve the public health of our city.”

A test run of remote instruction on Thursday will go on as planned.

The campus will mostly stay open, though campus dining and the Earl K. Long library will have modified hours, the press release says. The Cove will be closed starting Thursday and the Recreation and Fitness Center will be closed starting Monday.

More information is available https://www.uno.edu/covid-19/faqs.

---

2 p.m.

Lambeth House Uptown, a retirement community with both assisted and independent living, has announced a presumptively positive case of COVID-19, WWL-TV reports.

The 84-year-old is among the six people who tested presumptively positive already announced by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Group activities at Lambeth House have been suspended and only essential visitors will be allowed in.

The elderly are among those most at risk of serious illness due to coronavirus.

---

11:45 a.m.

By Bill Chappell, NPR

The COVID-19 viral disease that has swept into at least 114 countries and killed more than 4,000 people is now officially a pandemic, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday.

"This is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Eight countries — including the U.S. — are now each reporting more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, caused by the virus that has infected more than 120,000 people worldwide.

Read more

11:30 a.m.

Festival season brings hundreds of millions of dollars into New Orleans annually. Fear of coronavirus, however, will mean fewer visitors this year — and cancelations.

New Orleans Public Radio spoke to Bridget Bordelon, professor of hospitality management at the University of New Orleans, about the virus’s impact on the city’s tourism industry.

Read more

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10: a.m.

An attendee at the NICAR20 journalism conference in New Orleans last weekend has tested presumptively positive for COVID-19.

The person has mild symptoms, is self-quarantining for the recommended 14 days, and is expected to make a full recovery, according to a press release from conference organizer Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE).

The attendee was in New Orleans from Thursday, March 5 through Sunday, March 7. The press release did not say where the person traveled from except that it was in the United States.

IRE has notified attendees and the sick person is reaching out to people they were in direct contact with.

The CDC has recommended attendees tell their health care provider that they were at a conference with a person who tested presumptively positive.

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9 a.m. 

Three new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the state, the Louisiana Department of Health announced around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

All three are New Orleans residents. Two are hospitalized in the Orleans Parsh and one is hospitalized in St. Tammany Parish.

As of Tuesday night, the LDH had completed 43 tests for COVID-19, six of which are presumptive positive and the rest of which are negative.

New Orleans Health Department Director Jennifer Avegno has said she's not aware of any presumptive positive cases in this outbreak that were not eventually confirmed positive by the CDC.

As NPR reported, testing isn't simple. It can't be done in a doctor's office, and even hospitals may not be equipped. State health departments like LDH are running tests send to them by federal officials. There are currently enough out there to run about 75,000 samples.

Major health care providers and private companies like Quest Diagnostics are developing their own tests, but it can still take days to get results.

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March 10, 2020

7:10 p.m.

Across southern Louisiana, schools and universities are closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak.

The University of New Orleans will hold a one-day drill on Thursday, during which they'll conduct all classes remotely.

Louisiana State University is monitoring the situation and requiring approval for travel through its “high-risk travel” process. According to The Advocate, LSU is also preparing to move courses online in the event of an outbreak.

At this point, Loyola University New Orleans is not yet moving to online teaching, but the university is preparing faculty to teach online in case of an emergency.

Tulane University has convened a task force to monitor the virus and make decisions as the situation develops.

Dillard University has similarly convened a team to monitor the virus and encourages community members to sign up for text alerts through its emergency alert system.

Xavier University is also monitoring the virus. 

New Orleans Public Schools continue to monitor the virus. The Lens reports individuals in at least three schools are staying home as a precautionary measure after traveling to countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk-assessed list for the novel coronavirus that’s spreading throughout the world and country. 

Jefferson Parish schools have canceled in-person parent-teacher conferences and are offering the option of doing them online or over the phone. In-state and local field trips are being postponed until further notice. The district is also postponing large scale assemblies until further notice. Schools will communicate to families about the status of upcoming events.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System continues to monitor the virus but hasn’t updated its web statements since February. According to The Advocate, at least three Baton Rouge private schools have asked a group of students to stay home for 14 days after recent trips to Italy. 

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As the outbreak gains steam, the legislature will hold its first public hearings Wednesday on the state’s response.

Officials from the department of health will give the Senate Health and Welfare Committee a status update at 10 a.m.

At 1 p.m., they’ll cross the hall to brief a joint meeting of the House Health and Welfare and Homeland Security committees.

Read more

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6 p.m.

St. Patrick's Day parades and other festivities this weekend in New Orleans have been canceled, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced.

The news came in a press conference Tuesday evening, hours after the announcement of two new presumptive COVID-19 cases. Both the mayor and New Orleans Health Department Director Jennifer Avegno emphasized that the decision about being "proactive" and, as Cantrell put it, "preventing anyone else in our city from coming down with COVID-19."

The canceled events include the Downtown St. Patrick's Day parade, Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day, the Italian American parade, Uptown's Super Sunday event and Wednesday at the Square.

There are now three presumptive cases in Louisiana, all in Orleans Parish. At least one patient is in an ICU, Cantrell said. Another patient called her "out of the blue" and spoke to her. She did not know the condition of the third person.

"We want people to stay calm, we want people to stay informed and let the facts truly guide them, but at no time be alarmed,” Cantrell said. "... Stay calm, listen to the facts, do not panic, but take every precaution necessary."

Avegno said she does not have the exact number of people being tested, as that information is kept by the Louisiana Department of Health, but that as of Tuesday afternoon the number was in the 50s.

Collin Arnold, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for New Orleans, said officials today spoke with organizers of French Quarter Festival and Essence Festival.

He also urged everyone to be cautious and keep informed.

"Treat this like hurricane season," he said. "Stay informed. Stay ready. And heed our warnings."

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3 p.m.

There are two new presumptive positive cases COVID-19 in Louisiana, the Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday afternoon.

That brings the total number in the state to three, all in the New Orleans area, per the Louisiana Department of Health. A press release did not give specific locations for the new cases or demographic information for the patients.

“Currently, we have three presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Louisiana, all in the New Orleans area. While we investigate these cases, we cannot disclose any additional information about these patients at this time," Edwards said in a statement. 

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell released a statement shortly after:

"We are closely monitoring the updated information from the state health department, and remain in tight coordination with our partners on the local, state and federal level,” Cantrell said in the statement. “The two new diagnoses are serious news, but not unexpected. Our public health leaders and our public safety leadership are actively reviewing next steps, and will provide guidance regarding potential changes and cancellations for public events once more information is known.”

The governor will hold a meeting of the Unified Command Group tomorrow, to be followed by a 4:30 p.m. press conference.

Here is the rest of Edwards' statement:

"It is important that the public take measures to protect their health and reduce the spread of illness, including avoiding going out in public when you are sick, washing your hands, social distancing and disinfecting commonly used surfaces. Additionally, older people may consider additional measures like avoiding any kind of unnecessary airline travel and reducing their public interactions to avoid their potential exposure to illness. We know testing for COVID-19 is expanding this week as commercial labs come on board. We expect to see more presumptive positives in the coming days and weeks and I am asking all Louisianans to remain vigilant as we work to contain the spread of this and other illnesses."

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Oil prices crashed earlier this week following Saudi Arabia’s decision to ramp up production amid lagging demand as a result of the coronavirus.

David Dismukes, the Director of Louisiana State University’s Center for Energy Studies, talked with New Orleans Public Radio about the impacts of the oil crisis on Louisiana’s energy sector.

Read more

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11:45 a.m.

New Orleans Health Department Director Jennifer Avegno said in a press conference Tuesday morning that the city expects testing for possible cases of COVID-19 to ramp up "significantly" this week in the wake of the discovery of the first presumptive case in Louisiana.

That case is still a presumptive case, but Avegno she's not aware of any presumptive case that was not eventually confirmed positive by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results usually take a few days, she said.

The state has begun tracking down and reaching out to anyone the sick person was recently in contact with. Anyone who was in close contact and was symptomatic would be tested.

"The hard work begins of talking to those folks, assessing their risks, and giving them each individual guidance on how to proceed," Avegno said.

She was unable to say how many testing kits there are in the state.

The local capacity for hospitalizing any coronavirus patients in isolation and the supply of personal protective gear for health care workers is not well-defined as of now. Avegno said the city and state are working with hospitals to get a clearer picture.

"If we’re planning for the worst-case scenario, as we always do, we need to understand exactly what our full capacity is so we know when we’re getting to that point," she said.

"We have what we need right now, but it’s not where we want to be in terms of extra stuff," she said of personal protective equipment, and the budget for providing more would potentially be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The St. Patrick's Day parade in New Orleans has not been canceled. 

"There is no specific trigger for when you move into canceling events, nationwide," Avegno said. "I know that that comes with a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty can cause fear. Right now we don’t know enough about this case to warrant the wholesale canceling of events."

Avegno reiterated that people need to wash their hands thoroughly and often, and to stay home if they're sick. She also emphasized that businesses need to have plans for employees to work from home.

The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions remain at the highest risk, and Avegno gave a reminder that people check on their loved ones frequently

For real-time alerts from the city, you can text COVIDNOLA to 888777.

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March 9, 2020

The Louisiana Department of Health has reported the state's first "presumptive positive" case of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, according to the office of the governor.

Few details are known about the individual who tested positive. Out of concern for their privacy, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell would not release identifiable information about them at a press conference Monday afternoon, such as their age, or gender, or the hospital at which they are being monitored.

Officials have only said that the person is a Jefferson Parish resident and that they are currently hospitalized in an Orleans Parish hospital. According to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, that hospital is the VA Medical Center in New Orleans.

Read more

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March 4, 2020

In what NOLA Public Schools in a press release called a “first step,” the district held a conference call to discuss preventing the spread and managing a possible outbreak of COVID-19 with school leaders Tuesday afternoon.

A decision to close schools would happen under the recommendation of local and federal health agencies, according to the press release.

District leadership also used the call to urge school leaders to increase cleaning efforts and review and share best practices for limiting the spread of viruses, and to ask that they consider limiting unnecessary travel, especially international travel.

Read more

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March 2, 2020  

Following the first two COVID-19 deaths in the United States over the weekend, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards formed a coronavirus task force, which held its first meeting Monday. Four more people have died in the U.S. since the task force met.

Given the rapid spread of the disease, the coronavirus will inevitably infect Louisiana residents, the governor said in a press conference today.

"The immediate threat to the general population across the country and here in Louisiana remains low, although the risk of exposure is higher now than it was a few days because of community spread," Edwards said.

Read more

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Feb. 28, 2020 

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe and the number of people sickened nears 84,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said a U.S. outbreak is almost inevitable, while Louisiana officials say the risk here remains low.

There are no known cases of coronavirus — or COVID-19 — in Louisiana right now, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. There are 60 diagnosed cases in the U.S. as of Feb. 28, most of which are in people who were aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. The epidemic — which originated in China — has spread to at least 56 countries, and the World Health Organization has raised the global threat level to “very high.” The New York Times reports some health officials are saying a global pandemic may be inevitable.

In New Orleans and Louisiana, preparations are underway.

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