BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana health officials hope added outreach will help them limit the presence of the COVID-19 virus within the state.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health updated state legislators Wednesday on how they’re handling the coronavirus strain, which has infected at least 13 people statewide as of Wednesday night.
“If you see me at the Capitol, it will be a fist bump, it will be an elbow bump,” state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday morning, before meeting an equivalent House panel in the afternoon. “It will not be a handshake, hug or a kiss, if I can avoid it.”
The department has announced “presumptive positive” COVID-19 cases in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Iberia, Lafourche, and Caddo parishes. LDH officials said the state’s first patient, a Jefferson Parish resident treated in Orleans Parish, likely got the virus from someone undiagnosed in greater New Orleans.
LDH has tested 43 people for the virus, as of Wednesday afternoon. The department expects more tests — positive and negative — in the coming days, especially as commercial tests become available.
“What may feel like whiplash to providers is really just a cadence of, as we learn more, we’re putting more out there,” undersecretary Dr. Alex Billioux told BRProud.com in an interview Wednesday.
State lawmakers responded with mixed reviews Wednesday, as concerns over the virus leave various public events postponed or canceled.
Sen. Gerald Boudreaux (D-Lafayette) praised the state’s response so far. “You’re quarterbacking this thing,” he told LDH officials, “and there’s no playbook.”
“You gave great information,” Sen. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs) told health department leaders. “But there are still a lot of unknowns.”
Acting LDH Secretary Stephen Russo expects Louisiana will get at least $7 million in federal funds to fight the virus. The state would put the money toward investigators able to track where the virus could be. That aid would likely come in April, with added money likely at a later date.
The Louisiana Department of Health has launched a coronavirus hotline, 1-855-523-2652. The service runs Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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