Louisiana schools used federal coronavirus relief to buy up thousands of tablets for kids to use during the pandemic and beyond. Many school districts have more tablets than kids enrolled. Lafayette Parish, for instance, has 40,000 Chromebooks for its 31,000 students. Connectivity, however, remains a big problem. Not every family has home access to the internet. Mississippi used CARES Act allocation to address that problem directly and was pretty successful at it.
Hotel rooms arranged by local housing advocates kept hundreds of people warm during last week’s crushing freeze. Donations poured in across the Acadiana region. But the makeup of people in need underscores rising housing insecurity in the area.
For two straight weeks, fewer than 5% of coronavirus tests performed in Lafayette Parish have come back positive, meeting the threshold to opt back in to limited indoor service for the first time since November. On Wednesday, Mayor-President Josh Guillory did just that, notifying the governor that he will allow Lafayette bars to re-open at 25% occupancy. Permitting loopholes and lax enforcement have kept much of Lafayette’s night life humming throughout the pandemic, with crowds piling up Downtown on weekends. But some big clubs will remain closed because of the low cap on occupancy.
December’s coronavirus stimulus included $1 billion for schools in Louisiana. Districts across the state are working the windfall into their plans, with most using the money to address learning loss. Lafayette Parish schools will use its $37 million allocation for ” academic recovery, student services and personal protective equipment,” according to The Advocate.
All seven seats are now filled on a committee to study what city residents get out of Lafayette’s peculiar form of consolidated government. Five members were appointed for each district, directly by the relevant council member. And two more were appointed at-large by vote Tuesday night.
Here is the full list:
- District 1 — Joseph Catalon, landman
- District 2 — Mark Pope, former LCG environmental services manager
- District 3 — Roddy Bergeron, IT executive
- District 4 — Jan Swift, attorney and former director of Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation
- District 5 — Tina Shelvin Bingham, executive director of McComb Veazey Neighborhood
- At large — Stuart Breaux, former assistant city-parish attorney
- At large — Bill Leyendecker, retired LCG parks and recreation manager
The library system’s board of control, stocked now with ideological conservatives appointed in the wake of a string of controversies, will support an upcoming renewal. Just three years ago, the Lafayette Parish Library system was flush, sitting on $26 million in reserves and working with three property taxes. That hefty balance became a target for conservative activists, and a political campaign to defeat one tax renewal succeeded. Now, the system is operating at a deficit and with a much smaller reserve.Via The Advocate
Sounding off to The Washington Post, Gov. John Bel Edwards bemoaned Lafayette’s second failed attempt a local mask mandate a “failure of leadership.” Edwards called the decision “regrettable” and emphasized that the statewide mandate is in effect, despite an apparent lack of enforcement both by the state fire marshal and the open defiance of Mayor-President Josh Guillory.
“It’s unfortunate, because that region of our state, at numerous times throughout the pandemic, has actually had some of the highest positivity rates and case growth and hospitalizations,” Edwards said.
Beginning Monday, K-12 teachers and school staff and people aged 55-64 with certain health conditions will be eligible to receive Covid vaccines, Gov. Edwards announced Thursday, reported here by The Advocate. The massive ongoing winter event has disrupted already delayed vaccine logistics. Closed roads and offices forced delays in vaccine shipments and providers have had to reschedule both first- and second-dose appointments. LDH officials say that a few days delay on second doses shouldn’t be a problem. Just over a quarter-million people have been fully vaccinated in Louisiana. Hospitalizations have plummeted, however. As of Thursday, the Acadiana region posted fewer than 60 Covid in-patients for the first time since Nov. 2.
The winter storm disrupted already delayed vaccine logistics, too. Closed roads and offices forced delays in vaccine shipments and providers have had to reschedule both first- and second-dose appointments. LDH officials say that a few days delay on second doses shouldn’t be a problem. Just over a quarter-million people have been fully vaccinated in Louisiana.
LUS executed a pair of rolling outages, following orders from the regional grid network that supplies most of the energy that powers Lafayette. The temporary blackouts cut off electricity to about 25% of LUS customers for up to 30 minutes.
The polar vortex event has stressed the nation’s grid infrastructure, and the freezing temperatures will hold until the weekend.
“We won’t be fully out of the woods until Saturday,” LUS electric operations manager Greg Labbé told The Advocate.
A second effort at passing a local mask mandate failed on a 3-2 vote during a Tuesday emergency meeting of the Lafayette City Council. Losing co-sponsor Nanette Cook ahead of the meeting, the bill was dead on arrival and would have needed four “yes” votes to succeed and overcome a likely veto from Mayor-President Josh Guillory.
More than 3,000 calls flooded the council office, with two-thirds recording opposition. Misinformation about masking and the ordinance itself circulated wildly in the weeks since the effort was announced, though a draft of the ordinance didn’t materialize publicly until Monday.
Councilman Glenn Lazard pressed on despite the foregone failure, emphasizing that the mandate was necessary to force the administration’s hand into enforcement. Late last year, Guillory stood down local efforts to support the state’s mask mandate, and the state’s enforcement is itself virtually nonexistent.
December’s booster shot of federal stimulus will send $7 million in rent and utility assistance to Lafayette Parish, a figure that dwarfs previous local allocations but that advocates say still falls short of projected need. LCG is working through how to get the money out quickly.