St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
May 1, 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 MAY 1, 2020

The report from LDH for this date reflects that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the State is 28,711 with 1,927 deaths. This represents, over a one-week period, a statewide increase of 2,571 positive tests and an increase of 326 deaths. The number of reported positive tests in surrounding areas also increased. The following is the count for our region:

  • Acadia Parish: 133 cases, 10 deaths
  • Calcasieu Parish: 437 cases, 29 deaths
  • Evangeline Parish: 51 cases, 1 death
  • Iberia Parish: 261 cases, 21 deaths
  • Jeff Davis Parish: 63 cases, 6 deaths
  • Lafayette Parish: 463 cases, 20 deaths
  • St. Landry Parish: 181 cases, 44 deaths
  • St. Martin Parish: 241 cases, 17 deaths
  • St. Mary Parish: 193 cases, 23 deaths
  • Vermilion Parish: 37 cases, 1 death

According to the statement of the Governor last Monday, the rate of increase in Region 4 over a 14-day period was problematic. LDH Region 4 includes 7 parishes: Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, and Vermilion. The total number of positive cases in Region 4 today are 1,367 with 114 deaths. The report from one week ago (April 24, 2020) reflects a total of 1,252 positive tests and 86 deaths. Therefore, we had an increase of 115 cases in the last week which computes to a 9.185% increase. The increase in positive tests state-wide over that period was 2,571 or a percentage of 9.835%. Therefore, our objective, in Region 4, and the entire state for that matter, is to experience a rate of increase which will meet the necessary criteria enunciated by CDC, allowing us to meet the gating criteria for entry into Phase I relaxation of the current mitigation measures.

Another factor that is examined in determining entry into a Phase I re-opening is a downward trend of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period. The percentages as of April 28, 2020 for the Region 4 parishes were: Acadia-7.5%; Evangeline-7.6%; Iberia-12.25%; Lafayette-5%; St. Landry-8.74%; St. Martin-13.5%; and, Vermilion-2.7%. I have had discourse with LDH about factoring in positive tests of individuals confined in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. It seems prudent to me to exclude clusters of positive tests of those in such facilities. The focus is the control of the spread of the disease from a communal perspective. Clusters of cases in one facility presents a different issue and can be easily controlled to prevent a communal spread. LDH officials expressed an interest in such an approach (which will decrease the percentages), and I am scheduled to confer with them again next week on this issue.

In any case, I remain hopeful, and optimistic, that we will meet the gating criteria on or before May 15, 2020, so that we can open up our community and proceed with a return to some semblance of normality.

OUTDOOR DINING AT OUR RESTAURANTS

I repeat my remarks from April 28,2020 regarding the Governor’s announcement last Monday:
“… the Governor announced yesterday that his previously imposed Stay At Home Order would be extended to May 15, 2020. However, the Governor ONLY declared that:

• Restaurants could permit patrons to receive food by take-out and consume same on an outdoor patio or similar area PROVIDED social distancing was practiced. Service by waiters/waitresses is not be permitted. In short, a patron can order food via take-out and consume it on an outdoor patio. Of course, regular take-out orders, curbside delivery, and home delivery continues.

• Stores in malls with no outdoor entrance may offer curbside retail.

AN EMPLOYEE OF ANY BUSINESS WHICH HAS DIRECT DEALING WITH A PATRON MUST WEAR A MASK.

Other than these minor modifications, NOTHING CHANGES REGARDING THE GOVERNOR’S PRIOR STAY AT HOME ORDERS EXCEPT THAT IT HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MAY 15, 2020. The actual written order has not yet been prepared, and when it is, I will outline it and publish same.

The action of the Governor in not initiating a Phase I re-opening was based upon the failure of the State of Louisiana to meet the three “Gating Criteria” established by the CDC, and endorsed by the President Trump, for what is referred to as a “Phase I” re-opening. The State satisfied two of the criteria but fell short on the third criterion:

• A downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period OR
• A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of the total tests within a 14-day period.

Noteworthy is that the Acadiana region failed to meet this requirement. Similarly, Region 2 (Baton Rouge), Region 8 (Monroe), and Region 9 (Northshore) also failed to meet this mandate.

I am acutely aware that many people have challenged the wisdom of the Governor’s decision. I fully understand their concerns, and in many respects, I embrace them as well. However, there still remains the issue with our region’s failure to meet the criterion in question. I believe that I would be remiss if I did not opine the we could have done a better job at adhering to the Stay at Home measures. Even more troublesome to me, however, is that if my opinion (and personal observations) are in error, then we should vigorously question why our documented cases of COVID-19 are still increasing while those in seven other LDH regions are not.

The fact that many of our businesses remain closed is a very serious matter and at this point, I will focus on several areas. First, I would like to have some clarification on the “numbers” for Region 4 (Acadiana). Second, an entreaty to the Governor for an earlier date of expiration for the Stay At Home order if there can be a demonstrated improvement of our numbers (over the requisite 14 day period) would not be imprudent. Finally, I do not hesitate to implore everyone to abide by the Stay at Home Order(s).”

Since that post, I have received, and reviewed the Governor’s last Executive Order, Number 52 JBE 2020, focusing upon the criteria for restaurants to offer outdoor dining. Moreover, all of the mandates established by the State Fire Marshal, at the instruction of the Governor, have been reviewed. I prepared specific guidance in that regard and disseminated it to all of our merchant associations and mayors in the Parish, with copies being posted last night in this medium.

I am eager for our restaurants to have a mechanism to hopefully attract additional patrons for everyone’s benefit-them and the general public. Also, I have the utmost confidence that our local leaders will work closely with our businesses to ensure that there is compliance with all of the requirements for a safe implementation of the Governor’s proclamation. The weather is perfect for an evening meal outdoors!

DEFIANCE OF EXECUTIVE ORDERS

All of us have read and/or heard of efforts to terminate or outright defy the Executive Orders of the Governor. I will not say too much about such propositions other than to note several undeniable facts. First, like it or not, the Governor has the authority in cases of a public emergency or disaster to issue executive orders regulating or limiting the activities and conduct of the public. As the Louisiana Attorney General publicly noted several weeks ago, such actions are both legal and constitutional. Consequently, the actions of the Governor in such instances have the force and effect of law.

I certainly do not agree with every aspect of the Governor’s various executive orders during this crisis. Indeed, I probably would have set different benchmarks for the relaxation of some of the measures. Also, some of his decisions seem incongruent and inconsistent although I must concede that the battle with this COVID-19 disease is a tough one. Nonetheless, the one thing that must not be overlooked is the fact that the Governor’s decisions have been based upon science and medical advice which are embraced by healthcare officials throughout the world. I have heard opinions which challenge many aspects of this crisis, but never have any of those opinions been a product of the author thereof having had any personal discourse with an expert in the field of public health.

Every single elected official of this state has one thing in common-upon taking office, each official has raised his or her hand and taken an oath to uphold the rule of law. The arbitrary defiance of law translates into no law. Hence, it is difficult to understand and accept the message of those elected officials who, without ever personally or officially consulting with healthcare officials, advocate the defiance of the rule of law which emanates from the Governor’s legal proclamations.

I assure you that if I believed Governor Edwards had acted beyond the scope of his authority, I would boldly say so. In fact, research one of his first executive orders as Governor, 11 JBE 2016. That proclamation was legally and successfully challenged on the grounds that the Governor exceeded the bounds of his authority in its issuance. I was one of the lead attorneys who challenged the Governor in that case.

Therefore, I will strive to apply the Governor’s Executive Orders in this matter in as fair and commonsensical fashion as possible. As the rule of law during this crisis, such action is my sworn duty. I will not allow personal opinions, political ideologue, or unsubstantiated opinions to influence my conduct.