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COVID cases, deaths still on rise

Sunday, September 20, 2020

During the first week of Louisiana’s Phase Three coronavirus reopening, Lincoln Parish recorded 89 new cases of the illness and four additional deaths.

As of noon Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,097 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln Parish since the count began in March, and 47 deaths.

Louisiana entered a modified Phase Three on Sept. 11. Businesses can open up to 75% capacity, and social gatherings capped at 50% or 250 people, whichever is lower.

But since then, Gov. John Bel Edwards has modified his own restrictions once, and the federal government has done so a second time.

On Thursday, Edwards announced sales at bars, restaurants and casinos in eligible parishes — Lincoln Parish is not among them — can sell alcohol for on-premises consumption until 11 p.m. The governor’s original order stopped sales at 10 p.m.

Eligible bars and restaurants are those in parishes with COVID-19 positivity rates of under 5%. The parish’s positivity rate stands at just under 9%, according to the latest LDH report.

Meantime, both the virus and deaths attributed to the virus continue to hit Black residents the hardest. The Black community accounted for 32% of the total cases — the highest of any ethnic group — and 59% of the virus-related deaths.

Black residents comprise roughly 40% of the parish population.

LDH updates data for parishes with 25 or more total deaths each Wednesday using data through the previous Monday. That means the case count and percentages are based on the 1,057 confirmed cases as of Sept. 15.

LDH continues to list the parish as a highincidence parish for COVID-19.

Late Thursday the federal government issued new rules that reopen nursing homes for outside visits, but with limitations. However, LDH data appears to show only two of three Lincoln Parish long-term care facilities would qualify.

The reason: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said visits should occur only in facilities that have had no COVID-19 cases for the past 14 days, and in the parishes with a positivity rate of less than 10%.

According to LDH, both Princeton Place and Ruston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have been free of new cases for the prescribed period.

CMS does recommend a number of mitigation measures, including that nursing homes limit how many visitors a resident can have at one time, as well as limiting the number of visitors that can be in the facility at once.

The guidance also says face coverings, social distancing of at least six feet between people should be adhered to at all times and that all visitors must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19, including fever.

This CMS guidance was effective immediately. LDH was expected to update its order on Friday.

When Gov. John Bel Edwards outlined Louisiana’s entry into Phase Three on Sept. 11, he said there would be no change in the policy on nursing home visitations.

Though the White House Opening Up America Again guidelines allow resumption of nursing home visits with “diligent hygiene” in Phase Three, states are bound by that recommendation.

At the time, Edwards said Louisiana was working on a pilot project that would allow outdoor nursing home visits in parishes with positivity rates of 5% or less.

Edwards has said his concern is the high COVID-19 case rate and death rate in nursing homes.

According to a press release issued by Edwards’ office on Friday, a total of 2,225 nursing home deaths have been identified in Louisiana. That’s 43% of Louisiana’s COVID-19 fatalities. That number includes 18 Lincoln Parish nursing home residents.

Over 100 cases of the virus have been confirmed among local nursing home residents since the pandemic began.