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Coronavirus task force issues update

Still no known cases of the illness in Lincoln Parish
Friday, March 13, 2020
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As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continued to cause concerns and numerous event cancellations across the country and state, the newly formed Lincoln Parish Health Task Force met for the second time Thursday morning to prepare for the possibility of the virus appearing locally.

“At this time, there is no one in Lincoln Parish that has been identified to meet the risk criteria,” a text alert from the Lincoln Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness issued Thursday afternoon reads.

At press time Thursday, there were 14 “presumptive” positive test results for COVID-19 in Louisiana, with the closest one in Caddo Parish.

The task force members include the OEP, the city of Ruston, Ruston EMS, Northern Louisiana Medical Center, Green Clinic, Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University and the Lincoln Parish School Board.

The alert reminded residents that if they experience fever, coughing or shortness of breath, the main symptoms of the coronavirus, they should call their healthcare provider before showing up at a clinic.

“Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, etc. are putting protective measures in place to protect their patients and the general public, following (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines,” it reads.

Louisiana Tech’s Executive Director of Communications Tonya Oaks Smith said the university meets multiple times a day to monitor the situation.

“Each division is refining its contingency plans,” Smith said.

Louisiana State University announced late Thursday afternoon it will be switching all classes to online instruction. But Smith confirmed Tech will continue to hold inperson classes, while its restrictions on international travel established last week are still in effect, per recommendation of the University of Louisiana System.

Lincoln Parish Schools Superintendent Mike Milstead said the district is also not considering a move to remote classes at this time.

“Even in the school districts where there have been coronavirus cases, no case has been in a school yet,” he said. “We don’t think teenage children and below are very susceptible to it, and their symptoms are mild. So right now there is not talk about going to online (classes).”

He said the district’s precautionary measures include more frequent and vigorous cleaning practices of high-traffic surfaces, such as doorknobs and keyboards.

The district’s ban on out-of-state travel is still in effect, while a handful of in-state trips are pending.

“We are screening kids that come to us from out of state and contacting the health departments in the counties that they’re coming in from to make sure that coronavirus is not present,” Milstead said.

Grambling State University announced late Thursday afternoon the cancellation of several spring campus events through April 30, including the annual Spring High School Day, Women’s History Convocation and campus visit by John Warner Smith, Louisiana’s Poet Laureate.

“Any threat to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff takes immediate precedence over all other considerations,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “We see the cancellation of these spring events as an important step in protecting our campus from potential exposure.”

The OEP alert recommended the following “proactive steps” regarding the virus:

• Stay home if you are sick

• Cover your coughs and sneezes

• Wash your hands frequently using hand sanitizer or soap and water

• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

• Avoid close contact (six-inch distance) with those who are sick

• Protect the elderly, as they are the most vulnerable population