St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
July 12, 2020
3:00 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).

REVISED PHASE 2 RESTRICTIONS

A. Mask Wearing Mandate
As most of you are aware, yesterday, the Governor issued Executive Order 89 JBE 2020 which imposed new Phase 2 restrictions which included a statewide mandate that masks must be worn by the public when entering any establishment. Additionally, the wearing of masks, even outdoors, is mandated by this Executive Order if social distancing at six (6) feet cannot be exercised. The masks mandate applies to persons eight (8) years of age or older. However, it is recommended that those between two (2) and eight (8) years of age also wear masks. Excepted from the mask wearing requirements are the following:
• Anyone with a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a mask;
• Those who are consuming food or drink;
• One trying to communicate with the hearing impaired;
• A person speaking to an audience; and,
• Anyone who removes a mask for identification purposes.

An important feature of this proclamation is Section 4 (C) which provides that “all businesses or organizations, including all offices of the State of Louisiana, its political subdivisions, and all other governmental offices, shall require all persons who enter the premises to wear a face covering” unless excepted as set forth above. The Executive Order further declares in Section 4 (D) that citations for violation of this mandate shall be issued ONLY to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the mask wearing mandate.

In view of the alarming rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, together with a systemic disdain of the mask wearing recommendations of public health officials, the Governor’s action comes as no surprise. His decision mirrors the recent action of our neighbors, Mississippi and Texas.

B. Closure of Bars and Crowd Size Limitations
Although the mask wearing declaration is the most publicized of the Governor’s actions, it is by far not the only one which is of import. The Governor ordered that all bars and lounges, even those with LDH food service permits, must close; however, those business may offer curbside or delivery services. Furthermore, indoor social gathering will be limited to 50 persons. Outdoor social gatherings are also limited to 50 persons if individuals cannot avoid being within six feet of one another.

It is noteworthy that the foregoing crowd size limitation does not apply to those businesses deemed essential and those businesses operating at the Phase 2 50% capacity limits including churches and other faith-based organizations. In essence, the only revisions to the current Phase 2 parameters address the mask wearing mandates, the crowd size limitations for social gatherings, and the closure of bars and lounges.

OBSERVATION REGARDING MASK ENFORCEMENT

My thoughts on the question of mask wearing have been stated on several occasions in this medium. I repeat these recent comments prior to the Executive Order from yesterday:
We have been told time and time again by healthcare and public health officials the reasons for the increase in the numbers. Sure, there is more activity and congregating of people; however, health officials nationwide tell us that the spread of COVID-19 can be stymied by adherence to social distancing dictates and the mere wearing of masks. Phase 2 did nothing to CAUSE the spread of COVID-19. Rather, the current spike is the product of the inexplicable decisions of the public to ignore the warnings and advice of public officials relative to the aforementioned safety measures.

Of course, under the Governor’s executive orders, the wearing of masks is mandatory for all business employees who interact with the public. On the other hand, the wearing of masks is simply recommended for the general public when they leave their homes and interact with the public. I cannot understand why we, as a community, will not adhere to these simple, albeit often inconvenient, measures. It cannot be stated too often that, health officials, without significant dissent, recommend social distancing and the wearing of masks, and postulate that such measures will indeed stop this alarming trend.

I am not totally convinced that a governmental mandate alone will stymie the spread of this infection. Last week, I made the public statement that government cannot, and should not, be the parents of the public or the ultimate guardian of its behavior. Government cannot make us do the right thing. In other words, while I have no legal (constitutional) or pragmatic quarrel with the Governor’s temporary mandate under the current circumstances, its success will ultimately be dependent on how we as citizens react to it; i.e., will there be compliance? Will there be enforcement? Interesting, the Governor alluded somewhat to such a position during the press conference when announcing this mandate. Point blank, the Governor clearly and unequivocally commented that the state will NOT succeed in slowing the spread of the virus if the public simply relies on governmental enforcement. In short, the point which surfaces is that the success of the mask wearing mandate REMAINS dependent on the public’s adherence to the dictate.

The bottom line remains whether mask wearing is a productive measure in helping control the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts and the medical community articulate that it is indeed an effective tool. Of course, no one is advocating that the mask wearing apply to any other non-pandemic situation or be anything but a temporary measure. Under such scenarios, such a measure would be overreach under the most basic legal precepts.

While on this particular subject, I note that I personally see no reason why we cannot open up to 100% capacity if there is mass adherence to these simple measures: social distancing, wearing of masks, and practicing basic personal hygienics such as frequent hand washing, sanitizing, etc.

HIGH INCIDENCE RATE OF COVID-19

The Governor’s Executive Order allows for any Parish to opt out of its provisions if the parish has an incidence rate of 100 or less per 100,000 residents. This exception offers no solace for St. Martin Parish since our incidence rate over the last 14 days is 622 based under the forgoing formula. Indeed, based upon the cumulative incidence per 100,000 residents during that period, the following are the “top” parishes and their respective rates:

  • Jefferson Davis: 813
  • Iberia: 810
  • Calcasieu: 766
  • Madison: 734
  • Acadia: 681
  • Lafayette: 673
  • St. Martin: 622
  • Cameron: 617
  • Catahoula: 520
  • Terrebonne: 499
  • St. Mary: 498

Despite our high incidence rate, I do note that the number of new cases reported for St. Martin Parish has decreased steadily over the last several days. Nonetheless, our incidence rate remains high.

POSITIVE CASES FOR JULY 12, 2020

The news continues to be discouraging relative to the rise in COVID-19 reported cases (both in number and percentages) and hospitalizations. The report from LDH for this date reflects a cumulative number of positive COVID-19 cases in the State of 78,122 with 3,308 deaths. This represents a statewide increase of 1,319 positive tests and an increase of 13 deaths in one day. The following is the count for our area:

  • Acadia Parish: 1,339 cases, 45 deaths
  • Calcasieu Parish: 3,127 cases, 71 deaths
  • Evangeline Parish: 332 cases, 1 death
  • Iberia Parish: 1,272 cases, 51 deaths
  • Jeff Davis Parish: 606 cases, 13 deaths
  • Lafayette Parish: 3,834 cases, 54 deaths
  • St. Landry Parish: 1,128 cases, 59 deaths
  • St. Martin Parish: 1,021 cases, 27 deaths
  • St. Mary Parish: 762 cases, 39 deaths
  • Vermilion Parish: 542 cases, 7 deaths

The seven Parishes in LDH Region 4 (Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, and Vermilion) reflect a total, cumulative number of positive tests of 9,468 and 244 deaths. This is an increase of 303 positive tests and 2 deaths since yesterday.

COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide are 1,243 with 134 patients on ventilators. Since yesterday, the hospitalizations increased by 61, and the number of patients on ventilators increased by 13. In Region 4, there are currently 229 hospitalizations with 35 patients on ventilators. This reflects an increase in hospitalizations of 3 and an increase in ventilator use of 5 in one day. THESE NUMBERS CONTINUE TO RISE.

CONCLUSION

Since June 15, 2020, we have seen significant and disconcerting rises in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Our businesses continue to struggle, and in just a few weeks, schools will re-open placing in peril our children, teachers, bus drivers, and other school personnel. The recommendations of public health experts have fallen on deaf ears, and governmental steps have proven to be controversial and are questioned on several fronts.

Perhaps the one measure we have not seen suggested by our leaders is PRAYER. A regular routine of humble petitions may be the very medicine that will end all of this.