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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.

Reader Q: My daughter is an RN working on the front line. I haven’t been able to see/touch her since the beginning of March. Is it safe to finally visit/hug her?

Answer: That remains a challenging question.

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You can get a sofa but not a routine mammogram As elective procedures slowly return, Dr. Henry Kaufman says medicine will never be ‘business as usual’

It’s an understatement to say it’s been a whirlwind since Dr. Henry Kaufman accepted the position of interim chief medical officer at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in early April.

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Updated WARN includes layoffs at Halliburton, Omega, Turner Industries, Ensco

The latest WARN update from the state includes 36 layoffs at Halliburton in Broussard, 180 losses at ASRC Omega’s Port of Iberia operations, 350 cuts at Turner Industries in Port Allen and an undisclosed workforce reduction for ENSCO’s Gulf of Mexico operations.

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Coronavirus could have thrown a wrench in birth plans, but it didn’t

It’s a bit surprising yet reassuring, but labor and delivery seems to be going smoothly at Lafayette hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Lafayette reopens some ‘nonessential’ businesses conditionally, before the state’s lockdown ends

The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory rolled out a policy to re-open businesses he says fall in the “gray area” of the governor’s stay-home order that shut down commerce in the state on March 23 — i.e. businesses that are neither “essential” nor prohibited. Questions about who can stay open have persisted since the governor shut the state down amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

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“This order is legal; it’s within the guidance of the governor,” Guillory said, after explaining enforcement measures and punishment for violators.

Calling it his “safe shop policy,” Guillory said the change is needed to address the deluge of unemployment claims filed in recent weeks. Almost 19,000 initial claims are in the pipeline for Lafayette Parish, with more than 4,000 during the week of April 5-11 alone. “This many unemployment claims in this short of a period is by far unprecedented,” he said. 

Louisiana’s stay-home order is set to expire April 30, but the governor has yet to announce an extension. New Orleans, meanwhile, will keep its lockdown going until at least May 16.

Some public health officials have warned against thawing restrictions until widespread testing is available. Testing supplies are growing in Lafayette Parish and nationally, but not to the extent that local testing criteria have been substantially relaxed. High-risk cases still get priority, the mayor-president said at a Wednesday press conference, reinforcing in his remarks the need to keep Lafayette’s 311 pre-screening line open even after the Cajundome screening site was shut down this week. 

“The hospitals here have the ability to absorb [the risk],” said Dr. Doug Clement, an emergency care physician and LCG’s medical director, when asked today whether it is wise to pull back restrictions ahead of more widely available testing. Dr. Tina Stefanski, the state public health director for the Acadiana region, did not attend the press conference. 

The new policy applies to around 60 percent of businesses in Lafayette Parish, including retailers like furniture and jewelry stores, and those selling durable goods, officials said. To reopen under the order, which goes into effect at midnight Thursday, all employees must wear face masks and be symptom-free, and customers must maintain six feet of space when shopping and waiting in checkout lines. There is a maximum of 25 percent occupancy, as defined by fire and building codes, and no group congregating will be allowed. Beginning Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., business owners needing clarification on the safe shop policy can call 311 and choose option 2 to speak with someone from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

Violators risk having their power shut off, the mayor said, and face fines of $500 per violation and/or up to six months in the parish jail. Spotting noncompliance will rely largely on reports from private citizens. 

Additional reporting by Christiaan Mader

Nextdoor neighbors shout down Lafayette radio host’s ill-advised attempt to throw a public gathering

Radio personality Carol Ross took to community app NextDoor to promote a vigil for healthcare workers in River Ranch Town Square, a gathering that would flout Louisiana’s stay-home order at a time when officials up and down the political spectrum are urging the public not to gather. Her Nextdoor neighbors put a stop to it, calling out the conservative talk radio host’s gesture.

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Lafayette General Health lays out coronavirus surge plan, offers detailed picture of hospitalizations

The gist: Lafayette General Health has added 12 ICU beds to its main campus in the Oil Center, increasing capacity to 46, which includes creation of a separate hot zone of 10 beds in order to preserve PPE while caring exclusively for COVID-19 positive patients. 

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A first for the hospital, and the press. Those steps comprise Phases I and II of the hospital system’s surge plan — one it’s never before had to execute — which officials laid out in a first-ever virtual press briefing Tuesday afternoon. Phase III would activate 15 more ICU beds for non-COVID-19 patients in need of critical care, and Phase IV would open up six additional ICU beds where pediatrics is currently located.

As of this morning, the LGH system — which also includes University Hospital & Clinics in Lafayette, Acadia General in Crowley, St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge and Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital in Kaplan — has a total of 62 positive COVID-19 inpatients. Twenty of those 62 patients are in ICU, and of those 13 are on ventilators (another 14 patients are on vents pending the results of their coronavirus tests). Of those totals, the main campus, Lafayette General Medical Center, is treating 12 COVID-19 patients in its ICU, and an additional eight are in ICU pending test results. Comparably, Our Lady of Lourdes’ system, which includes the Women’s & Children’s and Heart Hospital campuses, has a total of 13 COVID-19 patients — eight in ICU and five hospitalized as of 4 p.m. today, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The Lourdes system did not release the number of pending or suspected cases.

Lafayette General Health’s system wide ICU bed count is currently 64 — LGMC – 46, UHC – 10 and Acadia General – 8. Officials were quick to point out that other facilities in the system are treating COVID-19 patients, most of whom don’t end up in ICU. 

LHG got a head start. System President and CEO David Callecod said the local system has for weeks been in daily conference calls with Ochsner Health in New Orleans (the two systems are in the final stages of a merger), giving it a preview of what was to come. “We had a two- to three-week headstart by talking [to Ochsner],” he said, noting the direction LGH got specifically for PPE preservation, treatment protocol and surge planning. 

Moderated by Director of Comms Patricia Parks Thompson, the briefing included Callecod, Chief Nursing Officer Renee Delahoussaye, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amanda Logue and Chief Operating Officer Al Patin.

No layoffs in the system. “We have not had to lay off any employees at this point,” Patin said, noting there are no plans to do so, despite the postponement of elective procedures and other unexpected changes. People have been working from home and others, like surgical nurses and surgical technicians, have been going through an orientation process to work in other areas. Officials said they are doing their best to keep high-risk employees away from COVID-19 patient areas.

No racial disparity seen in the patient population locally — yet. Officials said the patient population seems pretty evenly distributed race-wise, though they noted there has been no deep analysis conducted. Louisiana and other parts of the country have reported a disproportionate number of African American patients dying from COVID-19

No language barriers. The hospital will continue to utilize LanguageLine Solutions, officials said, an electronic-based translation system that helps medical professionals communicate with non-English speaking patients. 

With N95s in short supply, Lafayette General is sourcing disposable masks from surgical wraps

Seamstresses at New Iberia-based Action Specialties are turning out thousands of mask shields for Lafayette General’s frontline workers.

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LGH, Ochsner take next step in merger

The Boards of Trustees of Lafayette General Health and New Orleans-based Ochsner Health have approved and signed a definitive agreement for LGH to merge with Ochsner. The systems announced the merger in September.

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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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