St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
March 31, 2020
3:45 P.M.

The LDH report for this date disclosed that there are 5,237 positive COVID-19 tests in Louisiana and 239 deaths. The number of reported positive tests in surrounding areas stands at 365 with 8 deaths:

Lafayette Parish :118 cases, 1 death
Calcasieu Parish: 65 cases, 1 death
Acadia Parish: 39 cases, 1 death
Iberia Parish: 36 cases
St. Landry Parish: 31 cases, 1 death
St. Martin Parish: 31 cases, 3 deaths
St. Mary Parish: 22 cases
Evangeline Parish: 10 cases
Vermilion Parish: 8 cases, 1 death
Jeff Davis Parish: 5 cases

There is a 30% increase, statewide, in the number of positive tests. However, in the parishes in our area, the increase from yesterday’s report show a 72% increase – from 212 positive tests to 365. Therefore, we must continue to remain vigilant in adhering to the Stay-At-Home Order issued by the Governor on March 22, 2020.

COMPLIANCE WITH STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

Over the last day, there seems to have been passionate requests by leaders throughout Acadiana urging strict compliance with 33 JBE 2020, the Governor’s Stay-At-Home Order. I am pleased to see this unified approach among all of our municipal and parish leaders. In my view, there is an immeasurable value in having a single, strong, and emphatic message imparted by all local and state leaders. I reference my prior messages from the last several days.

This morning, I spoke with our OEP Director and several Mayors. The consensus is that there seems to be a significant reduction in traffic in the Parish. Moreover, we have had very limited reports of any improper gathering of persons. As regards there being a large number of people in certain businesses which remain open, I simply repeat my remarks from yesterday’s report:

One problem which is universal as regards all areas of our region addresses the fact that there are simply too many people shopping in stores at one time. This seems to be more acute in the large box stores according to several comments this morning during our regional telephone conference. Therefore, we encourage everyone who must visit an essential business to do so alone or with only a minimal number of household members. Moreover, everyone is encouraged to shop for only essentials: medicine, food, and related products.

BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

Recently enacted federal legislation has appropriated significant money for assistance to small business operations. The below infographic and the attached flyer provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce explaining the Paycheck Protection Plan were sent to me by Jennifer Stelly of the St. Martin Parish Economic Development Authority.

I encourage you to contact Ms. Stelly with any questions which the foregoing information may prompt. Her contact information is set forth on those graphics. Also, as I reported yesterday, Lafayette Parish is disseminating packages which outline the various programs being offered for small businesses impacted by the current crisis. This information also provides data for workers whose jobs may have been terminated. The material can be obtained at the drive-through window at Lafayette City Government building between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. More information on this program can be obtained by dialing 311 and selecting option 2 from the menu.

SPECIFIC CONCERNS

I do not want to be redundant; however, as noted yesterday, we continue to receive inquiries about certain businesses which remain open and which do not appear to be “essential.” Earlier today, Parish Government received an entreaty about this issue. I reiterate that every business which remains open and about which complaints are received are evaluated. I note again:

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.

HIGH WATER ISSUES

We are constantly monitoring the current and projected river levels as well as pertinent weather forecasts. In the event of any flooding, the Parish will be prepared to respond accordingly. The United States Army Corps of Engineers announced that they may be opening the Bonne Carre Spillway for about 30 days. If so, the opening of the spillway will not affect St. Martin Parish.

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. I have been advised that St. Martin Parish is currently at a 32.5% self-response rate. The rate for Louisiana as a whole is 33.1%. The response rate per municipality is:

St. Martinville: 36.2%
Breaux Bridge: 35.7%
Henderson: 27.1%
Arnaudville: 26.7%
Parks: 24.3%