St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
June 26, 2020
4:15 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).

POSITIVE CASES FOR JUNE 26, 2020

The report from LDH for this date reflects a cumulative number of positive COVID-19 cases in the State of 54,769 with 3,077 deaths. This represents a statewide increase of 1,354 positive tests and an increase of 26 deaths in one day. The following is the count for our area:

Acadia Parish: 783 cases, 36 deaths
Calcasieu Parish: 1,138 cases, 54 deaths
Evangeline Parish: 168 cases, 1 death
Iberia Parish: 610 cases, 44 deaths
Jeff Davis Parish: 316 cases, 8 deaths
Lafayette Parish: 1,862 cases, 41 deaths
St. Landry Parish: 578 cases, 57 deaths
St. Martin Parish: 638 cases, 26 deaths
St. Mary Parish: 426 cases, 38 deaths
Vermilion Parish: 220 cases, 5 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 4,859 and 210 deaths. This is an increase of 344 positive tests and 6 deaths since yesterday.

As I will address in greater detail later, COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide are 700 with 73 patients on ventilators. Since yesterday, the hospitalizations increased by 47; however, the number of patients on ventilators DECREASED BY 4. That is about the only positive news to report relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Region 4, as of yesterday, there were 87 hospitalizations with 10 patients on ventilators.

The data I reference herein are based upon the statistics released by the Louisiana Department of Health. Moreover, the Region 4 data, including the number of hospitalizations, are provided to my office directly. Indeed, the number of hospitalizations in Region 4 was submitted to me upon my request during a conference with LDH yesterday. Therefore, I am especially comfortable with the accuracy of this information with regard to the number of hospitalizations and patients who are on ventilators.

Despite one’s views and challenges to the reported LDH data, there is no denying that the State of Louisiana and Region 4 have seen significant increases in the number of COVID-19 positive tests, deaths, and hospitalizations. Furthermore, this information reflects a growing trend which must not be taken lightly or with a “so what” attitude. The foregoing serves as an appropriate segue to the following.

PHASE 2 AND REMEDIAL MEASURES

All of you are certainly aware that last Monday the Governor ordered that the State of Louisiana remain in Phase 2 of the state’s re-opening. Simply put-the gating criteria for moving from Phase 2 to Phase 3 was not satisfied by the state as a whole and the Acadiana region in particular. There are essentially three factors or gating criteria which the White House has established, acting in concert with CDC, in order to determine whether a state should proceed from one phase to another:

1. The number of persons presenting COVID-19 symptoms should reflect a downward trend over a 14-day period;

2. There should be a 14-day downward trajectory of cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests; and,

3. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 should be trending downward so as to ensure hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care.

On May 31, 2020, when the decision was made to enter Phase 2 on June 4, 2020, COVID-19 reported symptoms were decreasing in ALL regions. As regards the second criterion (the number of positive tests as a percentage) was decreasing in 5 LDH regions. Finally, the number of hospitalizations was decreasing in all regions except Regions 6 and 8.

This week on June 22, we learned that the picture had changed substantially with respect to those gating criteria. The number of COVID-19 symptom reports are on the increase in 3 regions (1, 4, and 5), had reached a plateau in 5 regions (2, 3, 6, 8, and 9) while increasing in Regions 4 and 5. Reported cases were on the rise in every region of the state except 6 (plateau) and 8 (decreasing). Finally, hospitalizations were increasing in three regions (4, 5, and 6), decreasing in only three regions (2, 3, and 8) and had reached a plateau in 3 regions (1, 7, and 9).

Special note should be made of the fact that Region 4, of which St. Martin is a part, was experiencing an increase in every single category.

According to health experts, the increase in the number of positive tests is attributable to several factors including, but not limited to, an increase in testing being conducted, workplace and similar congregant outbreaks, and increased activities associated with Phase 2 activities. The most sobering reason given by HEALTH OFFICIALS, however, is that the general public has ignored, abandoned, and dismissed the mitigation measures recommended worldwide.

I have heard opinions expressed about the number of positive cases reported by LDH being unreliable for a litany of reasons, some of which seem valid in my view. Indeed, I lamented several weeks ago about positive cases in congregant setting being used to determine whether the gating criteria has been met. Nonetheless, despite how one may view the reported data, there is one gating criterion which is reliable, and verifiable, that being the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. As alluded to previously, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase at rate described by public health officials as “alarming.” On June 1, 2020, the number of hospitalizations in Region 4 was 46, and on June 25, 2020, the number had grown to 87. It is of extreme import to note that the initial stay at home order issued on March 22, 2020, was based on concerns about our hospitals and healthcare facilities being overwhelmed as a consequence of this pandemic. On March 29, 2020, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Region 4 was only 25 while today we have over three times that number. Hence, we must not ignore the fact that a continued upward trajectory of COVID-19 hospitalizations will likely threaten the healthcare capacity of our hospitals and medical community.

It appears that the tendency is many quarters is to discount the reporting data of the LDH as mere folly. However, no quantitative or empirical premise is quoted in support of such challenges especially as regards the statistical data regarding the increase in hospitalizations.

Thus, the question which surfaces is what can we do to reverse the subject increased trajectories. We can shrug our shoulders and say, “So what, no big deal.” Well, if the increases will impact the children of our state relative to the upcoming school year, negatively impact the reopening of our businesses, or otherwise interfere with our lifestyles, then we should vigorously heed the advice of public health officials. Their recommendations uniformly embrace the well-publicized measures:

  • Wearing of masks
  • Social distancing
  • Exercising personal hygiene methods such as frequent hand washing.

Furthermore, we should avoid large gatherings where there is no social distancing or there is an absence of the wearing of masks. One cannot in good faith deny that, at a minimum, the first two of the forgoing measures have been abandoned by far too many. Similarly, the Phase 2 restrictions have been ignored.

I have observed on many prior occasions that I embrace the relaxation of many of the mandates which have, and continue, to result in inhibiting the operation of our businesses and other avocational activities. However, I equally embrace the adoption of the health measures referenced above. We can and, I submit, we should do both without compromise to either.

Are these measures effective? Personally, I do not know. Nonetheless, what I do know is that health experts declare that they are effective in reducing the spread of the virus. If there are public health experts who have a contrary view, they are in the vast minority and interestingly are not cited by those with a contrary view. Therefore, I see no reason why one would choose not to adhere to these measures. I feel constrained to quote this statement which was recently shared with me:

“I wear a mask because if the experts are correct, I could potentially prevent someone from getting sick and dying. If the experts are wrong, the most I’m out is the inconvenience of wearing a piece of fabric on my face.”

Truly, the inconvenience associated with the recommend steps are innocuous especially when contrasted to the dangers of the continued spread of COVID-19. Again, it must be stressed that these measures are not antidotal conclusions. Rather, they are embraced by the scientific and medical community.

In conclusion, I implore our community to re-commit itself to following these non-mandatory, recommended measures. There is too much at stake not to.