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Coronavirus In Louisiana: What You Need To Know Today

Apr 8, 2020
Originally published on April 8, 2020 4:10 pm

The latest on the spread of coronavirus in New Orleans and across Louisiana today, April 8.

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4 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that he is encouraged by the most recent updates on the state’s fight against the coronavirus.

For the fourth consecutive day, the number of patients on ventilators decreased.

At this time, 490 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are on ventilators. Edwards said that remains the case if you also include all of the likely COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized, but are awaiting results. And the total number of people hospitalized with the disease decreased as well.

But The Death Rate Remains High...

Edwards said the state’s death rate is still out of sync with the more positive hospitalization and ventilator statistics. In the last 24 hours, the Louisiana Department of Health reported an additional 70 COVID-19 related deaths — tying yesterday’s single-day high. In total, 652 people in the state have been killed by the disease.

A large number of those deaths were in nursing homes. Dr. Alex Billioux of the Louisiana Department of Health said people in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable. The state is trying to limit nursing home residents’ potential exposure by limiting visitation, but the risk cannot be eliminated. Billioux said as the virus continues to spread, he expects to see more cases and deaths at those facilities.

...Particularly Among Black People

More than 70 percent of the Louisianans who died because of COVID-19 were black, even though black people comprise approximately one-third of the state’s population. Edwards said he is disturbed by that trend. He invited Dr. Corey Hebert, chief medical officer for Dillard University, to talk about the heightened risk the coronavirus poses to black Louisianans. He said the prevalence of comorbid condition —- disorders like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease — among communities of color is partly to blame. He said long-standing inequities in the healthcare system present “roadblocks” for black people working to improve their health, but urged people to press on.

“This is a defining moment for this generation of African Americans and Americans as a whole,” Hebert said. “It’s our job as a total society, not a black society, to protect the most vulnerable, and African Americans are the most vulnerable by being disenfranchised and systematically marginalized for generations.”

Federal Money En Route to Louisiana Hospitals...

State hospitals will receive total direct payments of $27 million as a part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last month.

...And Unemployed Gig Workers

Edwards said federal money for unemployed gig workers in the state is on the way, but he said people will have to be persistent if they want to file their application. Across all sectors of the workforce, more than 277,000 Louisianans filed for unemployment between March 1 and April 4. By comparison, only 103,000 applied all of last year. Edwards encouraged people to call later in the day — the Louisiana Workforce Commission hotline is open until 7 p.m. — and to fill out their online applications between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., when web traffic to the site is at its lowest. Those checks will start going to unemployed gig workers starting on Monday. Job search requirements have been waived, but Edwards said people receiving benefits still have to confirm that they are jobless each week.

Carnival Cruise Ship Will Dock in New Orleans

The Carnival cruise ship Valor will dock at its home port of New Orleans, but no passengers are aboard. Edwards said approximately 300 crew members who are COVID-19 negative and have shown no symptoms will be allowed to disembark. They will be transported via chartered bus to the recently-closed terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport, where they will board chartered flights to their homes. Edwards said an undisclosed number of crew members who have tested positive will remain on the ship until they are well. He added that so far their symptoms are mild, but if they were to require hospitalization, they would be transferred to New Orleans area hospitals for that heightened level of care.

Still A Long Way To Go

Edwards quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci in saying ending social distancing measures will not be “like flipping a light switch.” The virus is going to dictate the timeline — not us. At this point, the statewide stay-at-home order is scheduled to remain in place until April 30.

Edwards finished by saying the outlook for the state may look better, but that can change if people think that they don’t have to comply with the stay at home order.

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3 p.m.

There's nothing like being stuck at home for weeks, maybe even months on end to turn your thumb green.

As stay-at-home orders sit firmly, lengthily in place, people are turning to gardening to give them something to do and maybe something to eat.

Seed suppliers are experiencing shortages and the phones at the Louisiana State University AgCenter are ringing off the hook with eager gardeners looking for information on what’s in season, where to get soil and how to teach kids about gardening.

For trips and tricks, we talked with LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Anna Timmerman.

Read more

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Noon

Another 70 people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the latest report from the Louisiana Department of Health.

As a reminder: these reports show how many people were reported dead in the last 24 hours, not how many people have died in the last 24 hours.

In total, 652 people have died.

The number of known cases is now 17,030 — up 746 from yesterday.

The number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is down by 13 today, to 1,983, and the number of people on ventilators is down by 29, to 490.

There are 5,070 known cases of COVID-19 in Orleans Parish and 208 people have died of it. In Jefferson Parish, there are 4,092 known cases and 149 people are dead. In East Baton Rouge Parish, there are 935 known cases and 33 people are dead.

Though officials say the coronavirus is certainly in every parish, there still remains one without a confirmed case: Tensas.

State and commercil labs have completed a total of 81,406 tests.

The LDH also began sharing information on hospital beds and ventilators broken down by regions today.

In Region 1, the New Orleans area, there are 282 ventilators in use and 353 available.

There are 548 ICU beds in use and 180 available in Region 1. The situation in rural parishes appears critical.

There are 989 beds in use in Region 1 and 2,572 available.

The department is also now sharing this chart showing the date symptoms appear for those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and who have died.

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9 a.m.

The City of New Orleans on Tuesday evening released guidelines for the safety of anyone who comes in contact with the body of someone who died of COVID-19.

The virus can still be trasmitted after a person has died.

For coroners and funeral home staff, the guidelines recommend, at minimum, an impervious gown with full sleeve coverage, eye protection (like a face shield and goggles), an N95 facemask and double surgical gloves.

There is a detailed list of 15 steps for preparation of bodies.

As for funerals, the guidelines document says, "There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19."

It also lays out these recommendations for burials:

  • Based on the State of Louisiana and City of New Orleans’ mandates on social gatherings, only the immediate (household of the deceased) family can be in attendance. Extended family and friends can watch online. Live Streaming and social media platforms can be used to share private size limited gatherings, which includes a wake, memorial service or other gatherings.
  • Families should understand that funeral homes cannot house deceased persons for extended periods of time awaiting the end of this pandemic. Plan to complete services rapidly within 3-to-5 days of date of passing.
  • People should not touch the body of someone who has died as a result of COVID-19. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness and should stay at home. Activities, such as kissing, washing, and shrouding should be avoided before, during, and after the body has been prepared.
  • It is suggested that COVID-19 positive cases consider Immediate Burial or Direct Cremation with Memorial Services to follow at later dates are additional option that can be offered. Families can set a tentative date of memorial remaining fluid to change with the progression of this situation.
  • Funeral Providers can continue to perform services to facilitate burials and cremations as well as suggest and help families to use this time to plan services that best memorialize the individual to be hosted at a later date.
  • Clergy can provide additional spiritual guidance, be available to perform rites in for immediate events, as well as help families to use this time to plan services that best memorialize the individual to be hosted at a later date.
  • Funeral Homes will provide expedited proper funerals and memorials for all faiths with dignity and respect including but not limited to immediate burial and direct cremation with the assistance of doctors for signatures (LA RS § 40:34.10; LA Rev Stat § 40:49), coroners for permits, and the state for enforcement of these regulations.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has created a tragedy within a tragedy: Compromising the way our residents prepare their deceased love ones to be laid to rest, and share in their grief the way we're accustomed to. And it won't get any easier," the mayor said in a statement released Tuesday evening. "That is why weeks ago I convened a Death Care Task Force to engage funeral home directors, coroners, cemetery directors, hospital officials, faith-based leaders and other stakeholders. They are working to ensure that this process is respectful but also mindful of the regulations we must follow to ensure safety for all involved in this somber process."

You can read the full guidelines here.

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