COVID-19 Resources Dashboard
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Reader Questions, Answered
What are the common underlying conditions for people who die of COVID-19?
In Louisiana, high blood pressure (66.4%) is the most common condition found among fatal coronavirus cases. Here’s a breakdown of figures as of April 6:
High Blood Pressure (66.4%)
Chronic Kidney Disease (25.1%)
What is community spread?
Community spread means infections are occurring without a trackable source. Early on, COVID-19 cases were typically associated with travel to affected areas. When people get the virus and officials can’t identify where they got it, those cases would be the result of community spread.
Isn’t COVID-19 just a bad flu?
No. COVID-19 is both more deadly and more contagious than the flu. Mortality rates for COVID-19 range between 1-3%. Seasonal flu is 0.1%. In other words, COVID-19’s mortality rate is 10 times higher. COVID-19 has a much higher hospitalization rate. Around 19% of COVID-19 cases are hospitalized. Around 2% of seasonal flu cases are hospitalized.
What do I do if I think I have COVID-19?
Isolate yourself. Call your doctor or call 311 to be pre-screened. This infographic lays out the screening criteria.
Once I recover from COVID-19, can I get reinfected?
Local healthcare officials point to the most recent CDC statement, which explains that the immune response to COVID-19, including duration of immunity, is not yet understood. “Patients with MERS-CoV are unlikely to be re-infected shorter after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19,” the CDC reports. Health officials in South Korea and China are continuing to try to understand why people who recovered from coronavirus have retested positive. For now, reports CNN, the most likely explanation seems to be that the test is picking up remnants of the virus.
If I wear a cloth mask when I go out, do I need to wash it after every use?
Ideally, yes. At least, that’s the view of Robert Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and a former CDC chief medical officer. Experts do offer a variety of opinions, though. Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist and epidemiologist, told NBC that people should wash cloth masks after every two uses.
Are the probable deaths from coronavirus in Louisiana added into the total death toll?
No. When the state began reporting probable deaths last month, it listed them as a separate number. The higher number, total deaths, does not take into account the probables, according to LDH’s vital records registrar. Probable deaths are those identified by coroners and/or physicians as COVID-19 deaths or as probable/suspected/possible COVID-19 deaths without a positive lab result. The number changes when pending test results turn out positive or negative. Probable death counts are updated weekly. There does, however, appear to be some discrepancy in how probables are reported among states.
What is contact tracing?
Over the next couple of months, you might get a call from an unknown number. That is, if one of your pals is diagnosed with COVID-19. Contact tracers — besides having a righteous job title — are the tackling to testing’s blocking in epidemiology. After a diagnosis, they interview patients to figure out who they’ve been in close contact with recently, and then follow up with those contacts. “We have a goal of reaching everyone who’s been infected within 24 hours of a diagnosis,” Dr. Alex Billioux, the state’s top public health official, said Friday. Most contact will be made by phone — like I said, look out for unfamiliar numbers. Billioux said they may introduce SMS texting and apps to reach more people.
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?
That’s still a challenging question. Dr. Garabet Akoghlanian, an infectious disease specialist with Lafayette General Health, says there are multiple factors that need to be considered, including the age of the parent(s), their risk of having severe disease, and the risk of their loved one on the front line. “In my opinion, we also have to think about the social and humanitarian aspect and the psychological consequences of isolation/distancing,” he says. “To say — at any point before we have a well-established treatment/vaccine — that there is no risk is probably wrong, but there are ways to lower the exposure risk (not eliminate) in such a setting.” Assuming both individuals are symptom-free, he offers the following guidance:
Meet in an outdoor setting while respecting the 6-foot distancing rule.
If both individuals are wearing masks, the risk of transmission is considered low; it’s even lower without touching, and it’s very low when respecting the 6-foot rule.
Always watch out for objects and commonly touched places (door knobs, sinks, bathrooms, car doors, steering wheels, etc).
Do our hospitals have enough space to handle a surge?
That depends on how fast and how big the surge is. A ProPublica report counts 1,720 hospital beds in a five-parish area around Lafayette. The average occupancy in that zone, called a Hospital Referral Region, is 59%, according to 2018 data analyzed by ProPublica. (Note: This is a different region and figure than the LDH region reported by the State of Louisiana.)
Suppose 20% of the Lafayette MSA (~620,000 people) get the infection. If that happens over 12 months or more, regional hospitals likely could manage it. The same number of infections over six months, however, would push hospital resources in Acadiana roughly 50% overcapacity, ProPublica finds. Read more about this issue here.
Are local hospitals making women give birth alone?
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.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, both systems have instituted “zero visitor” policies, with limited exceptions, one of which is laboring mothers.
How many ventilators do we have in Lafayette?
There are 209 ventilators in LDH Region 4, a seven-parish area that includes Lafayette. The number available changes frequently. Check here for updates.
How many ICU beds do we have in Lafayette?
There are 168 ICU beds in LDH Region 4, a seven-parish that includes Lafayette. The number available changes frequently. Check here for updates.
Are local hospitals expecting additional federal resources to come in?
Not likely. LGH President and CEO David Callecod says the Louisiana National Guard delivered a supply of FEMA-issued PPE in late March, but there is no federal cavalry coming. Frankly, the area doesn’t need the help right now. “We do not expect an influx of supplies from the feds,” Callecod says, noting that hotspots like New York, California and New Orleans are first in line.
How many hospital beds do we have in Lafayette?
There are 1,977 hospital beds in LDH Region 4, a seven-parish that includes Lafayette. The number available changes frequently. Check here for updates.
Have local hospitals started releasing the number of coronavirus patients who have recovered?
Not with any regularity. In a virtual press conference Tuesday, Lafayette General Health confirmed that facilities in its system treated more than 230 outpatients (which includes urgent care clinics, emergency department patients not admitted, Cajundome and medical offices) and since March 30 has discharged 40 inpatients who recovered from COVID-19. Our Lady of Lourdes’ system is working on our request for comparable numbers from its facilities.
Do we have data on exactly which hospitals’ ICUs are full?
No hospital in Lafayette is out of ICU capacity. Louisiana Department of Health updates the number of available ICU beds in each LDH region. Acadiana — LDH Region 4 — has the highest ICU occupancy rate in the state, but that doesn’t account for hospital surge plans. This week, Lafayette General detailed a four-stage surge plan, of which it’s activated two stages. The LGH system can still add another 21 ICU beds if it needs to.
How many healthcare workers at local hospitals have been infected?
We don’t know. Opelousas General confirmed Saturday that around 15 members of its staff tested positive. Both the Lourdes and Lafayette General Health systems have declined to release numbers. “Acadiana [healthcare workers] have not been spared,” the region’s top public health official said at a press briefing Monday. The official, Dr. Tina Stefanksi, would speak only generally and did not offer numbers or locations.
Can I get my teeth cleaned now?
Yes. According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, adopted by the state and effective this week, preventive procedures, like cleanings and regular checkups, can be deemed time-sensitive if performed with recommended preventive and social distancing precautions. “A checkup is not just about cleanings,” Dr. David Carlton, president of the Louisiana Dental Association, told KLFY. “It’s about the diagnostic part: checking for cavities, periodontal disease, checking for oral cancer, and then the cleaning as well, so you don’t develop anything further like gum disease.” Carlton says toothaches and swelling may be a sign of an underlying disease.
Do hospitals get reimbursed differently when a Medicare patient dies of coronavirus?
No. Medicare reimburses hospitals for treatment the same way regardless of the outcome, according to Lafayette General Health Communications Director Patricia Parks Thompson. In other words, whatever the cause of death, Medicare keeps to the same payment schedule. Those rates also cap the amount hospitals can bill the government for treating COVID-19 patients who don’t have any insurance. Again, that doesn’t change in the event a COVID patient dies.
Are hospitals reporting antibody tests?
Yes. It’s required. Lafayette General Health reports its antibody results electronically to the Louisiana Department of Health, says hospital spokeswoman Patricia Parks Thompson. Now we have not seen the data reported publicly yet. There is some question about how reliable serology tests are, but generally, wider antibody testing is expected to give us an idea of how prevalent the virus has been. When they work, antibody tests can identify coronavirus cases after patients have recovered.
How soon before enough tests become available locally and statewide?
It’s still unclear both how soon more tests will come and what an adequate supply will look like.
How many tests are available in Lafayette?
Fewer than we need, but officials aren’t saying much more than that. Tests are reserved for severe cases and people at high risk. Local officials are optimistic that testing supplies will continue to grow.
For most people, testing does little. The recommendations remain the same for anyone not at high risk who experiences COVID-like symptoms: stay home and keep your distance from crowds and vulnerable people.
Does Louisiana have any rapid tests?
Yes. Most of the rapid testing supplies are in New Orleans because of the severity of the city’s outbreak. Hospitals in New Orleans have 5-minute, 45-minute and same-day tests available. Commercial labs return tests to Lafayette in a few days.
Why isn’t Lafayette testing everyone with symptoms like they are in New Orleans?
Because there aren’t enough tests locally to test everyone who has symptoms. New Orleans has been hard hit by the virus, so it has more testing supplies available to it.
I didn’t get swabbed deep in my nose, does that mean I was tested incorrectly?
Not necessarily. The deeper, uncomfortable swabs — called “nasopharyngeal collection” — are preferred, but the “shallower” swabs in your nostrils are “acceptable” according to state health official Dr. Tina Stefanski, who oversees the coronavirus response for the Acadiana region. “No test is perfect, and false negatives almost certainly occur with COVID testing,” she says.
If I’m tested at the Cajundome, how will I get my results?
A medical provider will call you once results are in. There have been some delays on test results, but officials say results should come back in three or four days.
Why are they opening more businesses while they stop testing?
They aren’t. The Shop Safe order may or may not cause some businesses to reopen, but we’re testing more now, not less, and certainly not stopping. Lafayette ceased testing at the Cajundome screening site, but that accounted for a small proportion of overall testing. About 1,000 people were tested there, out 15,000 tests administered in Lafayette Parish. Testing supplies are increasing — albeit still somewhat behind schedule — and there’s wider availability among practitioners.
Can I get an antibody test now?
Yes. There are some antibody tests available in Lafayette now. Dr. Tina Stefanski, the region’s top public health official, says many primary care doctors have them but warns that the results aren’t necessarily that conclusive. Researchers are souring on the idea that access to antibody tests is the silver bullet to opening up again. Several tests are on the market, according to Dr. Marc LaPointe, an urgent care physician (disclaimer: my father-in-law), all of which are “qualitative.” That means the tests will only reveal whether patients did or didn’t have the illness, not the level of immunity. “The usefulness of this is probably related to the people who have had unexplained illness over the last couple of months and weren’t able to get tested and they’ll be able to say, if the test is any good, ‘well I did have it.’” Researchers are still learning about the disease — we’re not, for instance, quite sure how it kills people — so the antibody tests are still limited in what they offer, beyond some comfort that a patient had coronavirus, survived and might have some immunity.
Is LDH collecting antibody tests?
Yes, but that data isn’t going into the daily case counts. Dr. Tina Stefanski, the top LDH official for the Acadiana region, says the tests are still being evaluated. Reliability varies among the antibody tests, and the FDA is tightening up standards.
I have a friend who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and wants to donate his convalescent plasma. He’s been calling around but hasn’t had any luck. How can he donate?
There are a number of ways. LGH says he can call (337) 703-3398 Monday-Thursday between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. or email email@example.com. Lourdes tells us he can call (337) 470-4483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Lourdes’ donation center supervisor stresses that supplies of convalescent and non-convalescent plasma are at critically low levels. “We are waiting with open arms,” says Suzanne Picard). Anyone with antibodies can also call Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services) at (877) 258-4825 or click here for more info. If you’ve lost your job and have the antibodies, here’s a bit of good news for you. Drug companies are collecting plasma, too, and they’re allowed to pay you for it because it isn’t used for direct patient transfusions. For example, Grifols, which has 250 collection sites throughout the U.S., pays $50 per plasma donation (up to $400 a month) once you’re approved. Because it’s only plasma they’re collecting, you can donate twice a week. Click here for more info.
What are Louisiana’s testing benchmarks?
The Louisiana Department of Health wants to test 4% of the state population in the month of May. Studies consulted by the state agency suggest that a minimum of 152 people per 100,000 should be the daily testing goal, according to the Acadiana region’s top LDH official, Dr. Tina Stefanski. That roughly translates to the 200,000 tests the state hopes to record in the month of May. Louisiana is above the 4% testing benchmark cumulatively. So far, the state has reported 237,904 tests.
If I go to my doctor and I am positive, and then continue to test so I can go back to work, are all of my positives counted as just one toward our cumulative case count or are those multiple positives?
LDH only counts you once. So your repeat visit would not register as multiple positives in the state’s tally of cases. “If someone is tested multiple times, duplicate records are removed,” says Tina Stefanski, the top LDH official for the Acadiana region.
Does LDH count both antibody tests and virus tests in its testing tally?
No. Other states have, which has led to concern that the numbers reported are inaccurate. It’s still not exactly clear how reliable antibody tests are, Dr. Tina Stefanski of the Louisiana Department of Health says. LDH leans on the viral tests — called PCR tests — for reliable results. LDH has reported more than 355,000 tests so far, and all of them are PCR tests. “Our lab says PCR is king,” Stefanski says.
What are we doing to make sure Spanish speakers can be screened or tested?
Translators are available both at the Cajundome screening site and via 311. You do not need to have U.S. citizenship to be screened. A passport from your country of origin works for identification.
What about people who are undocumented? Can they get screened without fear of being deported?
Yes. Officials haven’t been direct on this issue. But it’s clear public safety is coming first. Mayor-President Josh Guillory said today that Cajundome health workers are only asking health questions and are observing standard medical privacy.
What’s happening with people experiencing homelessness? Are they getting tested or treated?
Shelters are typically maxed out but there’s some emergency space available, including at hotels for people without homes who are at high risk for infection. Space is available at some state parks — these aren’t camp sites, it’s mobile homes and other climate-controlled facilities — for people who need isolation while they await testing results or recover. It’s a voluntary program. That said, there is an acute need to find permanent housing for those without it.
I got my unemployment check, but not the backdated portion of it. WTH?
The backdated check is coming. But it’s not clear when. So long as you made a claim by March 29 and have continued to certify your lack of employment, the Louisiana Workforce Commission will pay the backdated check. LWC was able to start making payments April 13. The office is totally underwater with claims (see below) and hasn’t sorted out all the bugs of managing expanded benefits and claims for contractors, a whole new category of filer for the system. “LWC’s first priority was to fulfill claims for the current week,” says LEDA spokeswoman Stacey Zawacki, LEDA has been advising Acadiana workers and employers during the pandemic. “All claimants will receive funds for past weeks they filed certifications for, but we do not have a timeframe for that right now. LWC is increasing capacity on their system to process claims more quickly.”
I applied for the PPP/EIDL and now they’re out of money. What do I do?
Hang on. You’re hearing that a lot these days. The programs are more or less paused while Congress hashes out a deal on new funding. “Once they do, it’ll proceed,” says Heidi Melancon with the UL Small Business Development Center. Applications that were already filed will be processed and paid out — pending approval — once money is back in the pipe.
I can’t get my unemployment claim filed. What gives?
Louisiana Workforce Commission is overloaded. But a new system is coming to spread out claims and certification and make it easier for the computers to manage the volume. According to nola.com: “Beginning Sunday, workers whose nine-digit social security number ends in 0-3 can re-certify on Sundays. Workers whose last digit is 4-6 will be on Monday, 7-9 on Tuesday and everyone from Wednesday thru Saturday, the final day for re-certifying for the week.”
When can I go back to Mass and how is communion going to work?
The Lafayette Diocese has laid out a slow return to Mass. Once the state lifts the statewide stay-at-home order, the process to return to celebrating in person will be gradual, Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel said in a video message. Capacity will be capped at 25% of the maximum seating of a parish church. Inside, parishioners will be spaced six feet apart and in every other pew. They also will be spaced six feet apart in the Holy Communion line.
I tried applying for an EIDL disaster loan, but I can’t. What’s happening?
The SBA isn’t taking applications right now. Yes, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program was reauthorized by Congress, but the SBA is still overwhelmed, according to Heidi Melancon of the Small Business Development Center at UL. “They need thousands of people to process these applications,” Melancon says, and the SBA doesn’t have that workforce yet. The loan program is open through December 2020, so more than likely they’ll take applications again. If you’ve applied before, check your bank account. EIDL grants have been known to appear in accounts without notice.
When will Lafayette City Court reopen?
The City Court building at 105 E. Convent St. is scheduled to reopen to the public Monday, May 18, and return to a staggered court schedule June 1. All court sessions before June 1 are in the process of being rescheduled, and you should anticipate some additional delays. Social distancing will still be in effect, limiting the number of people who can be in the courthouse at one time.
Is public transit still available?
Lafayette Transit System is still operating with no immediate plans to shut down. LTS says there may be system delays associated with efforts to sanitize buses. Fares have been waived. More info
What about Uber and Lyft?
Uber and Lyft paused pooling services starting today. Regular services are still operating.
Any major changes to air travel from LFT?
For the most part, service at LFT has not been impacted, but the airport is taking plenty of cleaning precautions. LFT Executive Director Steven Picou broke down a laundry list of surfaces getting a thorough sanitizing. Travelers are urged to take stock of the prevalence of coronavirus where they’re headed and whether they’re personally at risk or live with someone who is.
My boyfriend is trying to fly home from Nebraska. When he gets to the Lafayette airport, what does he have to do so he can come home?
Whatever he’d typically do. “Once the boyfriend is at LFT, he has a few options,” says Lafayette Regional Airport Executive Director Steven Picou. “[He can] rent a car, call for a taxi or uber, or [your] reader can come and pick him up. There are no special circumstances or things to do once at the airport.”
Government & Public Services
Can I pay my LUS or LUS Fiber bill?
You can still pay by drive-thru or online. Note that disconnections for utility customers have been suspended for 60 days. More info
What precautions are the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center taking?
There are efforts to decrease population at the jail. 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. Read more about this issue here.
What’s included in the burn ban — are we talking bbq pits, chimineas, outside kitchens or just full-on bonfires and trash burning?
State Rep. Thomas Pressly of Shreveport posted the following after asking the state fire marshal for clarification: “It does not apply to BBQ (or) campfires (recreational) but applies to all other outdoor burning to include vegetation, trash and other waste.”
How are local governments and other organizations bound by Louisiana Open Meetings Law conducting their business under the stay-at-home order?
Lafayette is resuming its council meetings after a hiatus. City and parish council meetings will go forward, but the councils will not meet jointly. Council Clerk Veronica Williams says they’re looking into options for taking public comment remotely. Other communities are using video conferencing platforms to hold their meetings, but that’s not without problems.
I’m a low-income taxpayer who isn’t required to file a tax return. Will I get a check from the federal relief package?
Yes. According to the IRS, people who typically do not file a tax return will need to file a “simple tax return” with basic information like filing status, number of dependents and bank information so the government can send out an economic impact payment. Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax. The IRS is constantly pushing out FAQs.
What are the “probable COVID deaths” listed on LDH’s site?
When the coroner lists the cause of death as “coronavirus” but the victim wasn’t tested, LDH considers that a “probable COVID death,” according to Dr. Tina Stefanski, the top LDH official for the Acadiana region. LDH has reported 59 such fatalities to date.
How does the state get notified that someone in Lafayette Parish has died of COVID-19? Is there any way deaths could be slipping through the cracks?
There is no indication of any problems with how deaths are reported. As soon as a hospitalized person dies of COVID-19, the hospital alerts the coroner, who then reports the death to both Tina Stefanski, the state’s top health official in the area, and Devin George, who handles vital records for the state’s Office of Public Health.
Do you know if Phase I has any guidelines for live music?
Live music isn’t addressed directly in the governor’s order. For the most part, the rules conform to how businesses are permitted, and musicians will likely be viewed as “employees” of whatever establishment they’re performing in. Right now, restaurants and bars that serve food can reopen come Friday. So, theoretically, a musician could set up in those establishments but would count against the 25% occupancy cap. (Think real hard before booking a ska band, or maybe ask them to leave the horn section behind.) LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux says he’d generally advise that businesses approved to operate in Phase 1 could have live music if they wanted, with the assumption that all other social distancing guidelines are in place. “Well, the band needs to stand six feet apart,” he says. A couple of restaurants in town have acts booked this weekend. Geno Delafose plays Rock ’n’ Bowl to a seated crowd.
When will the DMV open?
Louisiana’s DMVs opened today. The office issued a checklist for customers, which you can access here. Branches are spacing customers out where they can to maintain social distancing. The DMV encourages customers to wear masks but does not require them for entry. Branches report lots of people showing up after months without access. Bring a snack. (Psst: don’t forget that you need additional documents for a REAL ID.)
Is anything being done to help those of us who still haven’t received our stimulus checks?
Yes. The IRS announced this week that it is adding 3,500 telephone reps who can answer questions about the stimulus payment. The move comes after some Americans have complained about issues with their stimulus checks, such as delays in receiving payment, wrong payment amounts, deposits in the wrong account, and stolen payments. So far, more than 140 million stimulus checks totaling $240 billion have been sent out. The phone number to call is (800) 919-9835. At first, the service will attempt to answer the caller’s question with an automated message. Those who need additional assistance have the option to talk to a representative after they go through the automated messages.
How can I donate to Share the Light?
The best way is to donate directly through Catholic Charities’ donation portal. Follow this link and select “utility assistance” in the dropdown menu to make a monthly or annual contribution. Those are tax-deductible contributions, and it’s the easiest way to make a big gift. You can also ask LUS to add a donation charge to your own bill by calling customer service.
I’m still looking for my federal stimulus money. What’s up?
Did you get a mysterious card in the mail? Don’t throw it away. That might be your economic relief payment. The U.S. Department of Treasury is shipping out 4 million of them. The cards show up in nondescript envelopes, with no U.S. government markings. In other words, they look sketchy as hell. Inside, there’s a Visa prepaid debit card with activation instructions. Here’s a picture of one delivered to a person in Lafayette.
Something we didn’t cover? Ask us a question.