Lafayette Parish needs more COVID-19 testing, especially in the African-American community, and plans are underway to accomplish that, Mayor-President Josh Guillory said during a radio interview this morning.
Guillory was on the weekly radio show The Community Hour, which is hosted by former City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux and airs at 11 a.m. Sundays on KNEK Magic 104.7.
"We’re still low on tests in this community," Guillory said. "I encourage everyone: dial 311 option 1. It's open 24/7 and there are health care providers on the other hand. You can also call 534-TEST, and from the comfort of your living room, get screened. Please post that. Anyone can make that call and get screened."
Last week, Guillory announced that talks were underway with the Northside Health Care Clinic to start mobile testing. He said his administration also is working to get adequate supplies to a lab in Northgate Mall that can do testing, as well as a clinic on Patterson Street near Alice Boucher Elementary.
Boudreaux asked Guillory to spear-head a drive-through testing site on the northside, of the same magnitude as the one that closed this past week after operating at the Cajundome.
Guillory said he would bring that up with the medical team he meets with tomorrow, but added that LCG doesn't staff those testing site, local hospitals do. However, he acknowledged that testing needs to take place in the African-American community because the statistics on the state level, which show that almost 60 percent of the people dying are African-American, are "frightening."
Guillory also expaned on his announcement last week, urging "gray area" businesses to re-open.
Those businesses were always free to be open under the governor's rule, he said.
There are three groups of businesses: one is the essential group, which have their own rules. Another is the group that is specifically prohibited from opening, like hair salons, nail salons, bowling alleys, etc. Any business not on either of those lists was always free to be open, Guillory said.
"Our first priority is to keep the public safe. If we're not alive, and we're not doing well, none of this other stuff matters," Guillory said.
That being said, Guidry said he did want to balance public safety with the pandemic's effect on the economy. Any businesses opening now that fall into the gray area must follow rules, Guillory said.
"Employees must wear masks, and they must maintain social distancing, and there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that," Guillory said. "The building can't have more people that a 25 percent occupancy."
Guillory said he's not asking businesses to do anything that violates the governor's order. But, he said, if numbers spike again he plans to take steps.
"We’re in uncharted waters. Public health is #1. But you have to take a look at all the impacts this virus is going to have," he said. "We’re juggling everything at the same time but we feel, based on the medical advice we’ve gotten, that 25 percent max occupancy is safe.
"But I want to remind everyone, this is still a serious situation, and the #1 line of defense is personal responsibility. Wash your hands frequently. Try not to touch your face. Social distancing, at least six feet apart. While we’re making steps to bring our economy back, we’re not out of this. We’re still in the fight. It’s a fight we can win, but it starts with us.
Boudreaux said everyone can play a part by limiting trips as well.
"No one is being forced to go out and shop,” he said.
Boudreaux said he'd heard from a lot of people who went to stores and saw no masks, no distancing, and packed buildings.
"If you see someone in violation, it's just as if you see someone on the corner dealing drugs," he said. "Please call law enforcement."
Guillory said enforcement is "pretty serious," and can include utility disconnection and citations that result in fines and/or jail time. But, he said, the first line will be to talk to business owners or managers to try to help them come up with a plan to comply.
"These businesses were completely closed before the initiative started. We didn’t issue any citations, even under harsher restrictions. We’re trying to to open them up in a safe manner. We want to crawl, walk, run," Guillory said. "But we’re prepared to do it. We will do it. My personal experience is that business owners seem to get it. Sometimes there’s confusion. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they’re defiant, we’ll implement the measures."
Boudreaux also asked Guillory for an update on the hiring of a new police chief. Guillory said the pandemic has slowed that process down "a lot."
"In an idea situation, we would love to promote from within, but I can't limit our search to just within," Guillory said. "I want the best and the brightest. We have too high a caliber of officers to have anyone other than the best at the top."