NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Coronavirus fears closed a Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles location near New Orleans the same morning that it reopened after a two-month pandemic closure.
The office in Harvey was notified that someone in the building might have been in contact with somebody who had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Deputy Commissioner Keith Neal said Tuesday.
Neal said he did not know whether the notification was from a state Department of Health contact tracer. The health department reported Tuesday that more than 35,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, 1,004 of them are hospitalized and 2,458 have died. About 26,200 are presumed recovered.
He said the office — one of 11 that reopened statewide Monday after being closed since March 20 — will be sanitized before reopening.
As far as the Office of Motor Vehicles knows, Neal said, nobody in the building, whether an employee or otherwise, had been infected with the novel coronavirus.
“We just wanted to play it safe — not put any of our citizens in harm’s way, not put any of our employees in harm’s way,” he said.
He said another office in the New Orleans area will open Wednesday “to help alleviate the strain of this office being closed.”
Although keeping three out of every four stations closed means the offices are opening with about one-quarter of their usual workers, staffing is the main reason most of the 79 offices statewide remain shuttered, Neal said. In addition, he said, the department wants to install plastic barriers at each station to be opened.
He said reopenings around the state will be located to “help fill in the spaces between the offices that have opened so far.”
In addition to one just outside New Orleans in Metairie, the open offices are in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Livingston, Mandeville, Monroe and Shreveport.
He said reasons for staffing problems vary and include quarantine, lack of child care, and medical conditions that put employees at greater risk from COVID-19. “If we don’t have enough to staff the office, we’re not going to open,” he said.
“We do have a lot of online options,” he noted.