OPELOUSAS, La. - St. Landry Parish officials held a press conference Saturday on the parish's response to COVID-19.
Their biggest message: "Stay at home."
As of noon on April 11, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 20,014 confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the state. A total of 806 people have died from the disease in Louisiana. St. Landry Parish currently has 109 cases, and 11 deaths. Click here for a breakdown of parishes in Acadiana.
At the conference, Ken Cochran, CEO of Opelousas General Hospital, talked about efforts being taken at the hospital and how changes have been made because of the disease. The staff at the hospital converted an entire unit into a COVID-19 unit to keep patients and staff safe.
Cochran said at least 15 staff members have or have had COVID-19 and the numbers are estimated to be higher, but the 15 cases were confirmed. Some staff have recovered from the disease and have returned to work. He said a few are critically ill.
"Don't turn Easter weekend into reversing all the work we've done for the last month," said Cochran. "Social distancing and use of PPE to protect yourselves and just reducing our exposure. That works."
"The patients are very sick," said Jackie Simien Chief Nursing Officer at Opelousas General. "Very, very sick so please the message is definitely stay at home. Stay at home, please, for your safety and as well as for the safety of our staff."
Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor spoke at the briefing saying "too many people are out congregating" and that there will be Easter services online and on TV and to stay home.
"We are faced with challenges everyday and it makes life interesting," said Mayor Alsandor. "When you over come those challenges it makes it meaningful, it truly does. And everyday that we get up, each of us, together we can make tomorrow better by doing the things that Dr. Cochcran and his staff have continually conveyed, the governor has conveyed, it's come from Washington, all our community leaders, my friends down the road to the south and the north. We have to work together people. And if we don't ask our selves not what we've done, but what we haven't done yet to make tomorrow better, not only for our selves and loved ones and our friends and the entire community that curve that they are trying to lower and flatten is going to get higher. And that's the bottom line we have to do better. Look at yourself and ask yourself what more can I do to have a better tomorrow, than what it is today. And if we all come together with that mind set and that mentality, we are going to be better tomorrow and there will be lesser lives lost because we are dong the right thing."
Bill Rodier of St Landry Parish Economic Development explained the CARE Act and how it helps small businesses in the parish. He said there is funding to help small businesses in this time of need, but to sign up now. Resources on SBA loans and available funding can be found here.
"There's a real concern that what's happening with the people coming out now and the numbers that they're coming out may reset the curve and push this forward longer if we don't start taking better personal accountability," said Rodier. "Again there is only so much we can do with the local retailers to help protect you as you go out and do your shopping. Please do your part."
On Friday, Opelousas General Health System released a Public Service Announcement regarding COVID-19, imploring residents to take the virus seriously. Watch it here.
Watch the press conference below: