St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
April 24, 2020
6:00 P.M.

NEW FORMAT

I again remind you of the new page on the Parish website for COVID-19 information and updates (www.stmartinparish.net/coronavirus).

FUTURE REPORTS

As I previously advised, these public reports will be provided on a periodic basis as opposed to daily submissions. Of course, in the face of an important development on any issue of any nature, I will most assuredly promptly advise the public accordingly.

POSITIVE CASES FOR APRIL 24, 2020

The report from LDH for this date reflects that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the State is 26,140 with 1,660 deaths. Of those deaths, 59 are classified as “probable COVID-19 deaths” which is defined as deaths caused by COVID-19 as determined by a physician or coroner without the benefit of a positive test result. This represents, over a three-day period, a statewide increase of 1,286 positive tests and an increase of 255 deaths. The number of reported positive tests in surrounding areas also increased. The following is the count for our region:

  • Acadia Parish: 129 cases, 7 deaths
  • Calcasieu Parish: 356 cases, 26 deaths
  • Evangeline Parish: 44 cases, 0 deaths
  • Iberia Parish: 236 cases, 13 deaths
  • Jeff Davis Parish: 59 cases, 5 deaths
  • Lafayette Parish: 440 cases, 17 deaths
  • St. Landry Parish: 157 cases, 34 deaths
  • St. Martin Parish: 218 cases, 14 deaths
  • St. Mary Parish: 171 cases, 18 deaths
  • Vermilion Parish: 33 cases, 1 death

The total reported positive tests in the above Parishes is 1,838 which is an increase of 144 cases in three days. The total deaths are 135 which is an increase of 20 over that period. For the benefit of Stephensville and Belle River, Assumption Parish (adjacent to Belle River) has 166 positive tests and 2 reported deaths, an increase of 15 positive tests and 1 increase in deaths.

In my last report, the number of increased positive tests in our region over a three-day period was 96, and the increased number of deaths over that period was 16. This “spike” seen in today’s report was not unexpected because of the Easter Holiday where, unfortunately, there was somewhat of an abandonment of the social distancing and other Stay at Home mandates. I must confess that I personally am disappointed with today’s number. However, as of yesterday in a telephone conference, Dr. Tina Stefanski advised that overall the “relevant” data reflects that statewide we are still “trending” in a positive direction although the hospitalizations in our region still outnumber the discharges, all relative to COVID-19.

We are not at the point where we can let our guard down. It is critical that we continue to practice diligently all of the measures which have been imposed in the Governor’s Stay at Home Orders, 33 JBE 2020 and 41 JBE 2020. These orders are currently scheduled to expire on April 30, 2020, six days from the date of this report. Hence, let’s finish as strongly as possible and hope that the numbers predominate in favor of a significant relaxation of the measures. I feel constrained to repeat my comments from April 18, 2020:

Everyone has the April 30th date circled and are as hopeful as I am that we will START to see a return to normalcy by a relaxation of the mitigation measures currently in place. The degree that the measures will be removed is dependent on where we are at regarding the spread of the virus. Thus, we MUST CONTINUE TO ADHERE TO THE MITIGATION MEASURES OF THE STAY AT HOME ORDERS. We have only 12 [now 6] days to go; thus, we must not become impatient and try to speed up the process – that would be counterproductive. I analogize this situation to a runner who is nearing the finish line – instead of slacking, the runner presses on even harder than before. Therefore, I encourage you to do just that relative to the Stay at Home Orders during these last 12 [now 6] days – be more vigilant than before.

PROTECTIVE MASKS

A national company has donated to St. Martin Parish Government a large number of masks. Unfortunately, the number is far less that our population. However, beginning early next week, our OEP personnel will commence the distribution of these masks in accordance with a protocol developed that will ensure that those persons who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 receive the masks first. Using data obtained from various sources, the distribution will commence in Stephensville and Belle River and proceed to the northern sectors of the Parish. OEP has carefully vetted the proper process necessary to assure that those most in need have the first opportunity to receive these items. It was deemed imprudent to simply initiate a mass distribution process without any criteria which many communities have done. Of course, OEP will seek to have all of the masks distributed before the expiration of the current Stay at Home Orders expire, at which time the need for the masks will likely be enhanced.

I applaud the methodical approach OEP has taken in this matter and their commitment to making sure there is a fair, reasonable, and cogent distribution of these masks.

BUSINESS RE-OPENINGS

It is anticipated that the Governor will announce on Monday that certain businesses previously closed by his Executive Orders will be allowed to reopen. I have been asked to speculate on what businesses will be included and what restrictions will be imposed upon those businesses. After having studied the CDC guidance on the re-opening of businesses under what is referred to as Phase I guidance, I have only a general idea of what the Governor’s decision may be. Nonetheless, any re-opening and the restrictions associated therewith will be dependent upon what progress has been made by the general public in bringing this issue under control.

On the question of a re-opening, I wish to take note of several matters. First, there have some suggestions advanced that Parishes should determine the conditions and/or nature of businesses which should be first re-opened. Such a proposition does not seem to be a sound approach, especially in our area. Indeed, citizens cross parish lines daily to shop and work. If each Parish has its own set of rules, then the problems with enforcement will be magnified and confusion will be rampant. As an illustration only, we are now reading about certain classifications of businesses just now being allowed to re-open in some Parishes despite the fact that such businesses were never closed by the Governor’s Executive Orders. On the other hand, many such businesses continued to transact business in those Parishes which correctly interpreted the subject orders. Therefore, in my view, a regional approach to the re-opening of businesses would be more apropos than a Parish by Parish approach.

PROTOCOL FOR RE-OPENING OF BUSINESS

As I reported last Saturday, I have formed a committee to develop minimal protocols for the re-opening of our businesses. The committee consists of our Mayors, SMEDA Director, the Presidents of all Chambers of Commerce, and HAMA. We held our first conference on April 23, 2020, and will be meet again on Monday afternoon at which time we are hopeful we will have some guidance on the Governor’s intentions relative to “post April 30th.” The objectives which I defined for the committee are:

To clearly define the types and classes of businesses which will be allowed to re-open, if any;

To concisely state the precise restrictions and parameters which will govern those businesses which will re-open; and,

To ensure that an accurate, cogent message is communicated to ALL of those businesses which may be allowed to re-open.

Finally, the committee will attempt to structure a set of “best practices” for businesses and consumers to follow; i.e., the wearing of proper protective masks whenever possible. I am confident that the Governor’s action will set appropriate limitations that will protect public health directly and the healthcare system in general. I do not anticipate there will be a valid reason to impose measures beyond those which the Governor may develop. Indeed, it is my belief, and the Committee members agreed, that the business community and its customer base are capable of assessing circumstances and making rational decisions on their own accord.

Of course, the final product of the Committee’s work will depend in large measure upon the dictates of the Governor’s actions between now and April 30, 2020, the date his “Stay at Home” orders are scheduled to expire.

On a final note, I repeat these comments which I previously made:

In the re-opening of the business community, it will be necessary to strike a reasonable balance between public health concerns and economic considerations. Moreover, we want to afford our community the opportunity to engage is business pursuits without the imposition of any unreasonable restrictions. I believe the cross section which this committee represents will be able to meet these objectives.

Of course, the idea of social distancing and limitations on gatherings MUST NOT be abandoned as we proceed with this “return”. Furthermore, our continued personal hygiene practices must continue unabated. Finally, when not engaged in an essential endeavor such as work, obtaining medicine and/or groceries, and taking care of family, we should STAY AT HOME.

PARISH GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

I still intend to have all Parish Government employees report to work at their assigned locations on Monday, April 27, 2020. We will not open to the public until May 4, 2020. Therefore, the administrative staff will have at least a week to become accustomed to the protocols which have been established to protect them. These protocols, which have been reviewed and approved by the Director of our health units, are attached.

Prior to opening the offices for the public, similar protocols will be established by those visiting our offices.

I again note that several factors were vetted by me in making this decision at this time. First and foremost is that with protective measures in place, there should be no significant health risk presented. Also, I deem every single employee of the Parish as essential. If not, then there would be no reason to have the employee on the public payroll. Finally, it seems that the primary objective of the measures which have been imposed has been met – to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

PRIOR INFORMATION

The following information was contained in my report of April 18, 2020, and April 21, 2020, and is once more reproduced because of its import ESPECIALLY THE CENSUS REMINDER.

2020 CENSUS

You are reminded of the importance of completing the 2020 census. Indeed, a crisis such as the current one highlights the import of accurate census data which is a determinant for funding for schools, hospitals, nutrition, and health programs. Moreover, our representation in Congress is dependent upon an accurate census count. I understand that our response rate remains below that of the rest of the nation. Thus, please complete the census forms. Information regarding the census can be found www.2020census.gov.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

I again invite, AND ENCOURAGE, everyone to visit the website designed and managed by Jennifer Stelly, the Executive Director of the St. Martin Parish Economic Development Authority: www.shopstmartinparish.com/covid-19-resources

This site has a wealth of information about the many business opportunities afforded our local businesses as a result of the CARES Act.

Similarly, a complete listing of businesses and the services they offer during this COVID-19 crisis is available at: www.shopstmartinparish.com

I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Stelly for a job well done. SMEDA plays a vital role is attracting and promoting local businesses.