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Reopening begins; virus claims another parish life

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
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Less than 24 hours after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced this Friday’s end to the current coronavirus-induced stay-at-home order, local churches and other organizations began finalizing their plans for at least partial reopening.

The Lincoln Parish Courthouse might reopen Friday with restrictions, though Assistant Parish Administrator Kevin Klepzig said Tuesday nothing has been confirmed.

When the building does reopen, visitors will have their temperature taken and will be asked to wear face masks.

Courthouse employees who deal with the public are already required to wear face coverings.

Parish officials are still mulling how many people can be in the building.

“We still have to stay at the 25% occupancy limit just like everybody else,” Klepzig said.

One of the stipulations of Phase One of the Open Up American Again program is limiting businesses, churches, restaurants and other establishments to 25% capacity, including employees.

The Lincoln Parish School Board central office will open to the public on Monday for the first time since the stay-at-home order began in March.

In order to meet the 25% capacity restrictions, central office staff will man the building with two crews that alternate daily, with Superintendent Mike Milstead heading one team and Assistant Superintendent Lisa Bastion heading the other.

“We feel like that’s going to minimize the risk of exposure,” Milstead said. “We’ll be practicing social distancing — stay in your offices, conduct conversations by phone to the extent you can, and we’ll be doing temperature scans as well.”

Visitors will be restricted to the front lobby area and required to wear a mask. Hand sanitizer will be provided in the lobby for visitor use as well.

These policies will remain in place until June 5.

“We’re going to follow the protocol established by the governor’s office, and I think it’s important that everybody abide by that,” Milstead said.

At least several local churches are preparing to resume in-person worship on Sunday, but all with attendance limits, social distancing and sanitary protocols in place.

Ruston’s Temple Baptist Church will have four venues: two for contemporary and two for blended worship. The Bridge Community Church will hold three weekend services, one on Saturday evening and two on Sunday morning.

John Knox Presbyterian Church will return to its traditional corporate worship but continue to live stream the service.

Emmanuel Baptist Church will have a drive-in service and also continue to live stream.

The plans for reopening come even while the novel coronavirus continues to claim victims. Figures released at noon Tuesday by the Louisiana Department of Health show at least one more Lincoln Parish resident has succumbed to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

That brings to 12 the number of local deaths attributed to the virus. But because of a lag in posting, that doesn’t mean the additional death happened over the last few days.

There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday. The number of known cases still stands at 107.

However, officials expect the number to increase as testing becomes more prevalent. Some 983 COVID-19 tests have been administered to parish residents since testing began in March.

The confirmed case figure is cumulative, meaning it also dates back to March and includes an undetermined number of patients who’ve recovered as well as the original diagnosis for those who’ve died.