Spread of COVID-19 forces more changes for local government, schools and health care facilities

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has not spared St. Charles Parish, where the first coronavirus death was reported today (March 25) and cases of the virus are on the rise.

Additional mandates to keep the public safe have been issued.

As of Wednesday afternoon (March 25), there have been 17 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 Wednesday afternoon (March 25), 1,795 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.

“Today is a sad day for all residents in St. Charles Parish as we have learned of the passing of one of our own. I encourage everyone to join me in keeping their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers,” Parish President Matthew Jewell said Wednesday. “I am encouraging all residents to continue to stay home to limit the spread of the virus.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ Stay At Home Order went into effect Monday at 5 p.m. The measure does not include a curfew at this time, but instead requested people stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

The stay at home measure follows previous announcements limiting the size of gatherings to fewer than 10 people (down from an initial limit of 250), closing casinos, schools, bars and movie theatres and limiting restaurants to delivery, take out and drive-through orders only.

St. Charles Parish government

On Monday Jewell urged residents to follow Edwards’ Stay At Home Order, reminding residents they should only leave their home if they need to obtain provisions from essential businesses such as pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores, and restaurants providing pick-up and drive through services. Jewell reminded residents that Bel’s order is not Martial Law and movement throughout, or between, parishes is not being restricted.

Last week Jewell signed an executive order to limit and restrict access to the courthouse and all government buildings to by appointment only until further notice.

Residents needing to conduct business with the courthouse or other government buildings must call ahead of time to make an appointment, and many offices have made adjustments to handle business over the phone.

“Residents across St. Charles Parish rely on us for critical services such as clean water, sewerage, trash pick-up and drainage and we will continue to provide those services through this event,” said Jewell. “I care about our employees and their safety deeply, which is why we are moving to this new work plan as we aim to sustain normalcy for our employees and our residents.”

While all services provided by St. Charles Parish will continue without interruption, current closures and cancellations remain in effect.

Cancellations include all recreation activities, all public and private events at the Edward A. Dufrense Community Center and all senior citizen events.

Meeting cancellations include all Council meetings, Coastal Zone Advisory Board meetings and Planning Board of Commissioners meetings.

Closures include The Registrar of Voters Office, Killona Community Center, St. Rose Community Center, Boutte Community Outreach Program, all branches of the parish libraries and all schools.

Earlier in the month, 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.

St. Charles Parish Public Schools

With schools shuttered since March 16, St. Charles Parish Public Schools have been utilizing electronic resources to disseminate at-home learning opportunities for its students. These at-home learning materials can be accessed online at http://bit.ly/SCPPS-HLO.

School officials say the materials are not mandatory, will not be graded, and will not be collected by teachers. Rather, they serve as a resource to assist students to minimize skill regression during the school closure.

The Curriculum and Instruction Department created a tutorial video to show parents how to navigate the at-home learning resources site. The video can be accessed at: https://vimeo.com/398633464.

In an effort to limit disruption to Louisiana students’ education due to school closures, Louisiana Public Broadcasting in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education and in collaboration with PBS stations nationwide have announced a plan to provide teachers, parents, caregivers, and students with resources to continue learning at home. LPB and other public media stations have prepared broadcast programming and accompanying digital resources—addressing state and national standards—to provide continued at-home learning. These can be accessed at: https://lpb.org/athome.

The U.S. Department of Education has approved the Louisiana Department of Education’s waiver request of assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This means Louisiana will not require standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year.

“This is unprecedented territory, and I am grateful for your support and patience as we get through this together,” Superintendent Public Schools Dr. Ken Oertling said.

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 per day, including end-of-life patients, laboring mothers and pediatric/NICU patients. 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.

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 a patient needs to make a clinic visit for a regular appointment, they are asked to limit the number of people coming into the clinic with them and to have others wait outside or in their vehicle instead.

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.


About Monique Roth 208 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

1 Comment

  1. Something needs to be done with St. Charles Council of Aging that has numerous employees that have come in contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19 .. the director wants the employees who has come in contact with these people to keep it quite and not tell anyone who is still working serving the elderly .. as well some who has come in contact with positive cases to still work? WHAT WILL IT TAKE !! FOR THESE PEOPLE TO EFFECT THEIR FAMILIES AS WELL OTHERS!!! To have a boss to not wanna follow preliminary precautions.. WHAT DO THEY DO?!!

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