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Author: Leslie Turk

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper business in Lafayette for almost three decades. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Acadiana Advocate. Email her at leslie@thecurrentla.com.

National Guard delivers face shields to Lourdes

The Louisiana National Guard delivered FEMA-issued face shields to Our Lady of Lourdes today to help the hospital staff safely care for coronavirus patients.

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JBE, Cantrell touring Convention Center field hospital Sunday; media briefing to follow

Gov. John Bel Edwards will join New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell Sunday in New Orleans for a walk-through of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that will be used for recovering coronavirus patients who no longer need to be hospitalized. 

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State directs healthcare providers to postpone in-person visits, transition to telehealth

On March 21 the Louisiana Department of Health directed health care providers to transition all of their visits to telehealth, “when medically appropriate and when the same standard of care can be met as an in-person visit.”

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Reader Q: Does Louisiana have any of the ’emergency-use’ coronavirus test machines that give results in an hour?

A spokesman for Cephied, the California company that developed the test, which has a detection time of about 45 minutes, confirmed to me that some of its testing machines are already in the state.

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Stuller Inc. shuts down Lafayette HQ amid governor’s ‘stay at home’ order

The gist: All 1,263 employees at Stuller Inc.’s global headquarters on Rue Louis XIV are being sent home today at 5 p.m. as a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “stay at home” order announced Sunday, according to founder Matt Stuller. Employees will continue to be paid and receive full benefits through April 12, the order’s expiration date.

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Reader Q: Are local hospitals doing what other places are doing and making women birth alone, which is just horrible?

A. No they are not. At both Lafayette General and Lourdes, which owns Women’s & Children’s, you are still allowed to have one person with you during childbirth.

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, both systems have instituted “zero visitor” policies, with limited exceptions, one of which is laboring mothers. Click here for the latest on Lourdes’ visitor restrictions and here for Lafayette General’s.

(See Editor’s Note above for the policy change that went into effect days after this story was published.)

What if I have a doula or midwife? If you have a labor coach, Lafayette General will also allow that person, along with your spouse, partner or significant other.

“If the mom has a doula arranged already to assist during labor, the doula can stay for labor and the delivery and will be asked to leave after the delivery,” a Lafayette General spokeswoman tells me. “We will ask the doula to present a certificate to show that is their role. The one significant other can stay with the mom in L & D and M/B [where moms go after delivery.] 

That’s not the case at Lourdes’ Women’s & Children’s, however, where it’s going to be either your doula or partner. “They are allowed to have one spouse or significant other [screened at entry] to be with them during their stay,” a Lourdes spokeswoman tells me.

Both hospital systems say they have made no other significant changes to labor and delivery other than the overall response to new guidelines for dealing with coronavirus.

We did find at least one hospital in New York that is not allowing anyone to accompany the mother during childbirth, but that policy, as clearly stated above, is not in place here.

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Reader Q: Has anyone heard what precautions LPCC is taking right now?

A: There are efforts to decrease population. 

The jail population has been reduced by at least 60 inmates in the past week, because of the efforts of judges, lawyers and the D.A.’s office, all of whom are working together for the early release of prisoners. Some individuals are bonding out, pleading to time served or probated sentences, or having probation/parole hold lifted.

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Lourdes, General postponing elective procedures

The gist: Both Our Lady of Lourdes and Lafayette General were still doing elective surgeries this week, despite widespread concerns about pending equipment, supply and bed shortages and the potential for spreading the coronavirus from asymptomatic patients to health care providers. 

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COVID-19 drive-thru screening site launching Wednesday

 
The gist:
The Cajundome will be a drive-thru SCREENING (not testing) site for coronavirus beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Communications Director Jamie Angelle stressed at Tuesday’s press conference. 

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Two key LUS, Fiber employees back on the job as uncertainty lingers

The gist: Two familiar faces, Jeff Stewart and Teles Fremin, returned to work this week at LUS and LUS Fiber, respectively, after being cleared of wrongdoing in connection with the Guillory administration’s allegations of a criminal coverup at the entities. Questions remain about the status of any criminal investigation and the agencies’ leadership.

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Get caught up, quickly: Mayor-President Josh Guillory dropped a bombshell on local radio just a month into his administration, claiming that Lafayette City Police had “raided” LUS last year under Joel Robideaux’s administration. Guillory told the station he had put four unnamed employees on paid leave and would ask Louisiana State Police to initiate a criminal probe. The “raid” was apparently linked to Robideaux’s ongoing internal investigation into questionable payments from LUS and LCG to Fiber; the Public Service Commission, which has limited oversight of Fiber, confirms it is reviewing what Robideaux turned over late last year for possible violations of the Fair Competition Act

There was no raid. “I saw no findings of a raid,” Cpl. Bridgette Dugas, public information officer with Lafayette Police, told The Acadiana Advocate a week after Guillory made those comments.

Based on information from a “whistle blower complaint,” LCG accused the four employees, whose names were redacted, of having information about the destruction of records and an “attempt to cover up a crime,” according to the letter to state police. The Current has not named Stewart and Fremin until now, only after multiple sources confirmed they had returned from leave and were cleared of suspicion — before any criminal probe by an outside agency has even commenced. 

A void in experience at both LUS and Fiber. Stewart and Fremin were replaced as interim directors of their respective entities late last year when Robideaux named his CAO, Lowell Duhon, to the interim post at LUS and moved Kayla Miles Brooks into the top position at Fiber. Public records obtained by The Current confirm that NewGen, LUS’s consulting engineer who last year deemed Duhon and Brooks unqualified for the interim jobs, is scheduled to be in Lafayette this week for a site visit as part of its annual review of the public utility.

Both Stewart and Fremin have been with LUS for nearly two decades. NewGen met with Guillory in January, reminding the mayor-president in a follow-up email on Feb. 1 that LUS has been without a permanent director for 18 months, suggesting ongoing discomfort with the lack of permanent leadership. 

Teles Fremin

The Feb. 6 letter to state police, written by City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan and widely released to local media, specifically names only one person, former LUS Director Terry Huval, while redacting the names of the current employees. The central allegation stems from 2011 emails alleged to be missing from an eight-year count of Huval’s email records, suggesting the destruction of computer files and email archives (along with “possible manipulation of accounting or public finance records.”)

“It appears that there was somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 of Terry Huval’s e-mails deleted for the 2011 time period,” Logan writes. 

He goes on to say, “We believe certain individuals at LUS & LUS Fiber are guilty of injuring public records … theft … malfeasance … and/or criminal mischief.”

In confirming Monday that two of the four employees had returned to their jobs, LCG spokesman Jamie Angelle declined to comment on what he described as an “ongoing investigation.”

State police confirms it is not looking into the matter. “Everything is in the hands of the DA at this point, so we are on hold,” says PIO Thomas Gossen.

District Attorney Keith Stutes notified the administration on Feb. 7 that he considered Logan’s letter a complaint and requested a wide range of documentation, including audits and internal investigations into former or current employees

“I have received, preliminarily, some of the information I requested,” Stutes says. “At this point, it’s a review process; it’s still under examination.”

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Embattled mayoral aide lands $79K job with state’s ATC

The gist: Marcus Bruno, former Mayor-President Joel Robideaux’s embattled aide, has landed a job with the state’s division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

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Guillory will launch nationwide search for new police chief

The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory says he will start a nationwide search for a new police chief in the next 30 days and confirmed for the first time plans to eliminate Deputy Chief Reggie Thomas’s position.

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