St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
March 28, 2020
7:30 P.M.

The latest numbers from LDH reflect that there are 3,315 positive COVID-19 tests in Louisiana and 137 deaths. The number of reported positive tests in surrounding areas stands at 126 with 7 deaths:

Lafayette Parish: 48 cases, 1 death
Calcasieu Parish: 22 cases, 1 death
St. Martin Parish: 13 cases, 3 deaths
St. Landry Parish: 10 cases
Acadia Parish: 9 cases, 1 death
Iberia Parish: 9 cases
St. Mary Parish: 7 cases
Evangeline Parish: 4 cases
Vermilion Parish: 3 cases, 1 death
Jeff Davis Parish: 1 case

To comprehend these numbers, simply compare them to those from March 20,2020, when the Acadiana area numbers were just 15 cases with no deaths.  On Thursday, March 26, 2020, the number of reported Acadiana cases were 67 with only one death from Calcasieu Parish.  Since last Thursday, the number of Acadiana cases have increased by 68-more than doubled in two days.  More sobering is the fact that our death total has gone from just 1 to 7.  One may postulate that the increase in numbers is the product of more test results being reported.  That may be a factor; however, the death toll is another matter.  I prefer to ascribe the increase in the number of cases to the spread of COVID-19 which is precisely what health officials have been predicting for several weeks. Also, see the remarks in the following sections for the perspective of our local health officials.

ST. MARTIN REPORTS YESTERDAY

Yesterday, I announced that LDH reported 11 positive tests for COVID-19 and 3 deaths for St. Martin Parish.  Prior to the announcement, our state and local health officials unequivocally and emphatically assured me the COVID-19 presented a medical crisis to our Parish, this region, this state, and the United States.  Moreover, Dr. Tina Stefanski and Dr. Warren Degeyter appeared with me at the press conference wherein we announced these sobering numbers. As an aside, their message is consistent with that of every other health official in this state and nation.

I make these observations simply to reinforce the importance of adhering to the measures set forth in our Governor’s previous proclamations calling for social distancing and more importantly his Stay-At-Home Executive Order 33 JBE 2020.  Hence, remarks which have been made that these reports and warnings are “fake news” and/or does not merit the measures imposed to control COVID are outright IRRESPONSIBLE.

The St. Martin Parish Press conference is on the Parish Facebook page. However, I have been advised that the sound may be somewhat compromised. Thus, you can access the conference in its entirety on the local television websites and Facebook pages (KATC, KLFY, and KADN). Indeed, I encourage you to listen to that part of the conference in which Dr. Stefanski explains in clear, concise terms the situation with which we are currently confronted.

STAY AT HOME EXECUTIVE ORDER

The Stay-At-Home order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards is outlined in my report of March 25, 2020. You are invited to review it since that post will remain on our site.

PENDING QUESTIONS

Over the last several days, many of you have asked numerous questions or posed several concerns. Our offices have attempted to answer all of them as best as we can, and I will address some of the most frequent ones as follows.

Curfew: The wisdom of imposing a curfew has been discussed on several occasions among my office, our Office of Emergency Preparedness, the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office, our Mayors and their respective police chiefs. In fact, yesterday afternoon, this proposition was again briefly vetted. It has been the unanimous agreement that there is no need for a curfew. COVID-19 is infectious every minute of every hour. It can be transmitted as easily at 1:00 in the afternoon as it at 1:00 in the morning. The way to control its transmission is to restrict our movements-not the time of our movements. This situation is NOT the same as the circumstances which prevail after a major weather event where we have imposed curfews because of road hazards, crime prevention, and lack of lighting. Of course, 33 JBE 2020, the Stay-At-Home Proclamation, is in effect a curfew.

Essential Business: A frequently asked question, here in St. Martin Parish and elsewhere, is why some businesses are allowed to operate and others are not. The answer lies in the Governor’s Executive Order 33 JBE 2020. Section 5 of the Order has been interpreted to allow non-essential businesses to remain open so long as social distancing is practiced and the 10-person gathering limitation is followed. However, Section 3 of that Order permits individuals to leave their home for work purposes only for essential business pursuits. Moreover, it seems to me that under Section 3 the only shopping which individuals may do is for essentials such as food and medicine. Also, our OEP is the agency which is tasked with the enforcement of the Order in Section 6 thereof and in my Executive Order of March 24, 2020. As such, in each instance where a question arises about a business operation which is not specifically named in the Order (such as a casino or bar), our OEP has contacted the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for guidance. In all candor, I truly believe too many businesses, for several reasons, have avoided closure under the guidance we have received from GOHSEP.

My chagrin over this aspect of the Stay-At-Home Order has been expressed both publicly and privately. See for example the press conference from yesterday, as well as this post from yesterday:

I will go one step further, our efforts to enforce the measures imposed by Governor John Bel Edwards, have been met with too much resistance from many fronts. This must end. I am calling upon all of the leaders of this region to stand untied-we must enforce and apply the Governor’s Executive Order so that only essential activities (as defined in Section 3 of his Stay-At-Home Order) are conducted. It does not take a rocket scientist to define what is essential; and, if one wants to resort to splitting hairs, consult the guidelines of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to which Section 3 of the Order refers. If doubt still exists as to what activity, business or otherwise, is permitted, resort to applying the spirit of the Order which is clearly set forth in its title: STAY AT HOME.

The guidelines from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have just this date been updated. Upon my initial review of these revised guidelines, the landscape does not seem to change significantly.

RECOGNITION OF BUSINESSES

Food is an integral part of our culture and is a major component of our business enterprises. Thus, at this point, I want to encourage each of you to reach out to our restaurant industry and avail yourself of the services they offer despite on premise dining has been denied for them. Most of our restaurants offer curb side delivery, take-out, and drive-thru. Additionally, all of them have gift cards for now or later. And let’s not forget what our restaurants have endured with the Henderson Exit construction and flooding. IF EVER THEY NEEDED US, IT IS NOW.

Also, our grocery stores being opened poses a health risk for them. However, they have remained available to us for essential goods and services at reasonable hours.

So, for our food and grocery needs, if we must leave home for those essentials, don’t leave our Parish which can accommodate all of our needs.