As the state continues to increase its testing capacity for the novel coronavirus, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks hopes to have an operating testing site in the parish as soon as this week.
“We are hoping to get it up and running this week (March 30 - April 3),” Ricks told The News.
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spiked to 4,025 positive cases in Louisiana, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health. Locally, Livingston Parish reported one new case from the day before, bringing the total to 16.
And while that may seem like a low number compared to other parishes, it may not accurately reflect the number of residents who have contracted the disease based on testing limitations.
Located in the Louisiana Department of Health’s five-parish Region 9, Livingston Parish is one of only two parishes without its own testing site. The other, St. Helena, has yet to confirm a positive case of the novel coronavirus.
The other three parishes in Region 9 — St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington — all have their own sites and have reported more cases than Livingston Parish, despite two having smaller populations (Tangipahoa and Washington).
But that may change if and when Livingston Parish is able to test its own residents.
The parish has been “in conversations” with a local facility in regards to a possible testing site, according to Ricks. At this point, discussions are focused on hours and days of operation, but Ricks expressed confidence that those issues and other details will be resolved soon.
“We want the people of Livingston Parish to know we’re doing everything we can to get a testing site here,” he said.
A local testing site could help more accurately reflect the spread of the novel coronavirus in Livingston Parish, which currently ranks No. 23 out of 64 parishes in number of tests reported.
Approximately 128 Livingston Parish residents have been tested for COVID-19, according to new data provided by the Louisiana Department of Health. Of those that have been tested for the disease, approximately 16 tested positive, or 12.5 percent of all those who were tested.
While Livingston Parish ranks No. 26 among state parishes in number of positive cases, its percentage of positive cases is actually higher than that of East Baton Rouge Parish (6.6 percent) and Caddo Parish (3.3 percent), who have a combined 410 positive cases from 9,485 tests.
And of the three most populated parishes in the capital region, Livingston Parish residents have been tested the least, which is most likely due to a lack of local testing availability. Most residents have been tested at sites in Hammond and Baton Rouge, Ricks has said.
Livingston Parish confirmed its first positive case of the novel coronavirus on March 19. In less than two weeks since, the parish has reported 15 new cases, a much slower rate of growth compared to East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes, the other two most populated parishes in the capital region.
However, those parishes have a combined three testing sites: Baton Rouge General - Mid City, Women’s Center for Wellness, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales.
Ricks hopes Livingston Parish will be able to add its own site “in the near future.”
“We’re trying to get everything set up, and we’re pretty confident that’ll be done soon,” Ricks said.
Governor Edwards continues to emphasize social distancing and mitigation efforts, even putting a "stay at home" order into effect to try and express the potential issues that could be caused by this virus. The governor has discussed extending his 'stay at home' order to Apr. 30, matching the president's extension of 'social distancing' mandates, also to Apr. 30.
The stay at home order still allows residents to:
- Go to grocery or warehouse stores
- Pickup food from restaurants
- Go to pharmacies
- Go to the doctor's office, should the doctor allow it
You can also:
- Care for or support a friend or family member
- Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise - just keep at least six feet between you and others
- Walk your pets and take them to veterinarian if necessary
- Help someone to get necessary supplies
- Receive deliveries from any business which delivers
The governor's office says you should not:
- Go to work unless you are providing essential services defined by this order
- Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
- Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out
- Visited loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility
The difference between "stay at home" and "social distancing" is that stay at home is a more strict version. It means:
- Stay at home is a stricter form of social distancing
- Only go out for essential services
- Stay six feet away or more from others
- Don't gather in groups of 10 or more
The governor wanted to emphasize that these measures weren't "quarantine" - residents could still utilize essential services and would not be restricted to home at all times.
Good practices for social distancing and hygiene include:
- No gatherings of 10 or more
- Wash hands for 20 seconds or more
- Sneeze and cough into a tissue or elbow
- Disinfect common surfaces
Those who are essential must go to work, but individuals who can work from home are asked to do so. Businesses should limit their interaction with the public as much as possible.
The Governor updated his public health emergency proclamation to include the following:
- Gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people.
- Casinos and bars will be closed.
- Restaurants will be closed to patrons eating on site. Take-out, drive-through and delivery orders are allowed.
- Movie theaters will be closed.