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St. Landry declares State of Emergency as precautionary measure

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 17:09:34-04

St. Landry Parish declared a state of emergency yesterday amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, primarily as a precautionary measure, officials say.

There were no confirmed cases of the illness in the parish as of Tuesday morning, but Parish President Bill Fontenot signed the declaration to allow agencies to prepare for any eventuality and to quickly deploy additional resources if and when they are needed.

He said there is no cause for panic, that the declaration should provide reassurance that “the parish government is open and working for you” and that “your safety is on all of our minds.” That theme was reinforced by a panel of health, government, law enforcement, volunteer, and business leaders who have been working together for several days to provide a coordinated and effective response to the spread of the illness.

The parish declaration mirrors those issued by state and federal authorities.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office announced Monday afternoon a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. The declaration closes casinos, bars and movie theaters and limits restaurants to delivery, take-out, and drive-through only. The changes may be lifted on April 13.

Edwards and St. Landry officials urged people to follow the same precautions they’d take for the flu: washing hands frequently, staying home when you are sick, and keeping more distance from people, rather than giving hugs. Guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control also recommend avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Precautions outlined by the local agencies center on continuing to provide needed services while limiting potential contact by the public and their employees with people who might be infected.

ST. LANDRY PARISH GOVERNMENT

St. Landry Parish Government has limited access to its buildings, including the parish courthouse.

Most parish offices will be closed to the public temporarily and will be conducting business by phone. Animal Control Adoptions and Liquor Licenses will be handled by appointments only. The public is asked to call the office, and staff members will respond to their needs.

The following parish agencies are doing business by phone only:

  • Airport – (337) 407-1551 or (337) 351-0025
  • Animal Control – (337) 948-6184
  • Community Action Agency – (337) 948-3651
  • Public Work – (337) 407-0950
  • Permits Office – (337) 948-0388
  • St. Landry Parish Administration – (337) 948-3688
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) One Stop Center – (337) 948-1377

These parish functions will be handled by appointment only:

  • Animal Control Adoptions – (337) 948-6184
  • Liquor Licenses – (337) 948-3688

The Parish Courthouse will have limited access. Only 25 visitors are being allowed in at a time as a precautionary measure.

REGISTRAR OF VOTERS

The Registrar of Voters office will be closed temporarily to the public but will be conducting business by phone. The office can be reached at (337) 948-0572. Citizens needing to register to vote or make changes to their voter registration can do so online at geauxvote.com

ST. LANDRY PARISH CLERK OF COURT

The Clerk of Court office in the Courthouse will remain open but is limiting access to two customers at a time. The Clerk recommends that anyone who can do so should contact them by phone or fax. The Clerk’s Office number is (337) 942-5606

ST. LANDRY PARISH SHERIFF

Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said he would put into place some precautions. He said this is particularly needed in the parish jail, where 265 inmates are crowded together. He has suspended visitation for them and for 39 St. Landry inmates who are being held in three other parishes; suspended inmate transfers from one facility to another, and curtailed jail prayer services, outside fingerprint requests, inmate work release programs, and other programs.

Deputies will not be available for security at large events. Magistrate hearings for offenders will be done via a television system, but criminal trials will continue, although judges “will restrict the number of people allowed in court before, during, and after the proceeding. He urged anyone who has business with the sheriff’s department to try to do it by telephone at (337) 948-6516.

OPELOUSAS GENERAL HEALTH

Such restrictions are part of a “calculated effort to reduce the spread of the disease,” according to Dr. Ken Cochran, CEO of the Opelousas General Health System.

He said access to OGH facilities would be limited to one entrance for patients, caregivers, and medical staff, and that everyone entering will be screened.

He noted that this new virus has made its appearance at a time when local physicians are already seeing a significant number of patients with the regular flu and that the hospital is already crowded.

ST. LANDRY PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

School superintendent Patrick Jenkins said school officials will serve lunches between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekday to any student under 18 years old from public, parochial, or private school closed until April 13 by state order. These are Grab-N-Go meals.

Food pickup locations include:

  • Opelousas Junior High School (730 S Market St, Opelousas, LA)
  • Central Middle School (602 S Martin Luther King Dr, Eunice, LA)
  • Lawtell Elementary (1013 School Rd, Opelousas, LA)
  • Plymouth Rock Baptist Church (162 Plymouth Rock Loop, Morrow, LA)
  • New Life Church of God Campground (445 Campground Road, Palmetto, LA)
  • Corte’s Grocery (226 Lyons St, Melville, LA)
  • Knights of Columbus (418-B Saizan St, Port Barre, LA)
  • First Baptist Church (853 Saizan St, Port Barre, LA)
  • Shiloh Baptist Church (419 Buhot St, Washington, LA)
  • Sunset Community Center (211 Marie St, Sunset, LA)


He urged parents to watch local media and to check regularly for needed information with the school board website, https://www.slpsb.org/ and its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/stlandryparishschoolboard/.

UNITED WAY & LOUISIANA 211

Much of that information and information from other agencies will be available through the 2-1-1 information base that has been activated by the governor, according to Ginger LeCompte, executive director of the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way.

“Don’t buy into rumors,” she advised. “We are working hard to provide you with reliable and accurate information.”

She also urged persons interested in volunteering during the emergency, or any time, to go to the United Way St. Landry-Evangeline website, click on the Volunteer box, and then on Get Connected.

CITY OF OPELOUSAS

The city is open for business; however, no business will be conducted inside its buildings or city hall. All transactions or payments will be done through the drive-through window on the west side of City Hall or through online services on the city’s website. A drop box is available for payments, but no cash payments will be accepted.

“We are likely to face bigger challenges as we go forward,” Alsandor said. “We are here to reassure you that we are coming together for the good of our citizens. We mean to convey a positive message and make sure that you are informed.”

CITY OF EUNICE

The City of Eunice will be closing City Hall temporarily to the public. Please call the appropriate office for assistance or visit their website at eunice-la.com.