With school underway, Lafayette Consolidated Government’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force is looking to test 10,000 north Lafayette students and their parents for the coronavirus.
Lafayette Chief of Minority Affairs Carlos Harvin, who heads the task force, says such a partnership with the local school system will help children remain safe while attending school in person.
“We want to make sure the numbers are moving in the right direction,” Harvin says. “We don’t want school to be an opportunity to cause a spike.”
The possibility of a partnership will be discussed at the task force’s meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday (today). Harvin’s goal is to meet with the superintendent beforehand. “We’re extending our hand to the Lafayette Parish School System,” Harvin says.
However, the COVID-19 testing would involve only schools located in north Lafayette — the predominantly Black districts of Lafayette’s city and parish councils. The task force has been targeting these areas since its inception because of the number of hotspots there.
In mid-August, Harvin says the task force tested about 200 athletes from the UL Lafayette after campus officials reached out. A drive-thru site was set up at the Domingue Center on Mudd Avenue.
Harvin says the university call “really sparked our attention” and led the task force to focus on younger students outside of the collegiate level.
The Task force has the capability to administer numerous tests through its partners, particularly those with mobile units. Harvin envisions parents being tested when they drop their children at school.
The Task force hopes to expand its scope, providing vaccines, such as Hepatitis A and B, as well as tetanus, to older school students.
Meanwhile, Harvin attributes the current low 5% positivity rate for COVID-19 in Lafayette Parish to social distancing and hand washing, but most of all, to mandatory mask requirements by businesses.
“You can’t get service anywhere if your mask is not on your face,” he says.
What that means is local businesses have been largely responsible for blocking the transmission of the virus.
“I think the increase in masks is causing those numbers to decrease,” Harvin says.
And while he has been able to keep abreast of regional and parish numbers when it comes to COVID-19, Harvin says it’s been difficult to track the task force’s target region.
“We’re still trying to get a handle on how it compares to the rest of the parish,” he says. The Louisiana Department of Health publishes cases by census tract, but demographic data are limited to the parish level and greater.
For now, they have no choice but to hope that neighborhood and census tract figures are coinciding proportionally with local and regional figures. But they really do not know. “We haven’t drilled down to that level yet,” Harvin adds.
The local official says it’s hard to track the target population because residents have been forced to go outside the area to be tested because their medical providers do not accept Medicaid. Harvin, however, remains confident the task force will eventually be able to reach the point where it has numbers reflective of what is actually happening in the target zone.