The spread of COVID-19 has brought on whirlwind of change nationwide, and that is no different in St. Charles Parish as local institutions continue to implement methods to protect the public.
There have been three positive cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) reported by St. Charles Parish. The high number of cases just outside the parish have been the primary reason for area-wide concern: as of Tuesday evening, 196 cases in the state have been reported, with a large number of those in Orleans Parish and the New Orleans metro area as a whole.
On Monday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced measures to prevent further spread of the virus by limiting the size of gatherings to fewer than 50 people (down from an initial limit of 250), closing casinos, bars and movie theatres and limiting restaurants to delivery, take out and drive-through orders only. Those measures followed his announcement last week that all K-12 public schools statewide would be closed through April 13.
April 13 is also the tentative date for each of the other measures to cease as well, but Edwards warned Monday that the situation would be reevaluated as that date approaches and that “it is much more likely than not” that the regulations would extend to at least 13 days past the expiration date.
St. Charles Parish government
On Friday, St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell declared a state of emergency in the parish, which will provide access to additional funding and resources made available by the federal government in the event they are needed.
The parish government will continue to operate and maintain public services, according to a statement released by Jewell’s administration.
However, to prevent the spread of the virus, Jewell announced that all recreation events, senior citizen events and public and private events at the Edward Dufrene Community Center will be postponed until further notice. For other gatherings, the parish will respect the state regulations issued by Edwards, said parish communications director Samantha de Castro.
“We’re going day by day, everything is fluid of course,” de Castro said. “We provide essential public services and we’re continuing to provide those to our residents. We’re taking precautions as necessary. We recommend that if there are things one can handle online or over the phone, please do so and refrain from going to the location.”
St. Charles Parish Public Schools
St. Charles Parish Public Schools confirmed this week that all previously scheduled events in the school district will not take place during the closure period, including middle and high school athletic contests and practices. Kindergarten, Pre-K and Head Start registration has also been rescheduled for when operations pick up.
“We understand that extended school closure will create a hardship for many families,” said school district director of public information Stevie Crovetto. “Children count on the reliable routine that a school day offers, from the classroom setting to the many people at school who know them, care for them and provide recognition of them five days a week.
“Families, too, count on that routine and the knowledge that their children are cared for during the day. It allows them to tend to their workday or focus on the other pieces of life that need to be taken care of, and there are many. Contemplating weeks without that structure and care may seem overwhelming. Please know that we are doing our very best to make decisions that will help care for all of us through this time.”
To that goal, among measures the district announced this week is it will implement an emergency feeding plan providing free breakfast and lunch meals for students up to the age of 18, in order to ensure students do not experience a lapse in food security. The service began Tuesday and is scheduled to run through April 9, each weekday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Meals will be served via pick-up or curbside at five designated locations: St. Rose, Luling and R.J. Vial elementary schools, and Harry Hurst and R.K. Smith middle schools. Meals provided will be based on the number of children present at the time of a pickup. An ID is not required to pick up meals.
The district also announced it has begun providing several online and printed resources for at-home learning. School district spokeswoman Stevie Crovetto said completion of the home learning opportunities are not required and the work will not be graded, but that the district recommends their use to sustain and sharpen each student’s skill level.
Crovetto said those resources are now available digitally at https://buff.ly/39XpqXM. On Tuesday, the school began providing hard copies of the materials in front of the School Board office in Luling. The materials will be available for pickup each weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
St. Charles Parish Hospital
Ochsner has put new policies into place at its health care locations, which includes St. Charles Parish Hospital. There is a no visitors policy in place at all Ochsner locations, outside of exceptions defined by the state, in order to limit potential virus exposure to patients.
If a case meets certain conditions, a hospital patient may have one visitor at a time, including ICU patients, infusion patients, end-of-life patients, laboring mothers, pediatric/NICU patients and special needs patients in need of a family member’s assistance. In those cases, however, only visitors defined as “essential” will be permitted, and on a one at a time basis.
Hospital visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever greater than 100.4, cough and shortness of breath.
There should be no visitors for clinic patients unless the patient needs assistance.
Ochsner has provided a 24/7 information line for guidance for those who believe they may have COVID-19, (844) 888-2772. Ochsner Health advises people should not seek on-site testing before calling a provider or the info-line number.
One may also schedule a virtual visit with a health care provider at www.ochsner.org/virtualvisits.
There have been three urgent care centers designated for COVID-19 assessment and testing, if recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health and the patient’s provider, located in Houma, Mandeville and New Orleans.
Community health centers
Access Health Louisiana, which operates the community health centers in Luling and Norco, is enacting a telemedicine hotline at (877) -580-2066 to schedule telemed visits with Access providers.
Patients calling the line will set up a time for a video chat with a provider, which can be done with any smartphone, tablet or computer, said Access Health outreach director Chenier Reynolds. For patients without access to that technology, one may call from a phone and speak about symptoms with a provider. If patients make a clinic visit for a regular appointment, they are asked to limit the number of people coming into the clinic with the patient.
“We are lucky to have an infectious disease physician, as well as an epidemiologist on staff at Access Health Louisiana,” Reynolds said.
Access has set up a COVID-19 Task Force made up of members of the group’s leadership and clinical teams. They are constantly monitoring new information being released from the CDC, Louisiana Department of Health, as well as state and other local agencies, Reynolds said.
Reynolds said Access Health Louisiana Pharmacy offers free home delivery of medications and she advised individuals to ask their medical providers for 90 day refills on medication, if possible, to limit the need to travel to the pharmacy. The pharmacy number is (985) 785-5826.