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Louisiana's legislative session pushed back by coronavirus pandemic

The legislative session, typically 85 days, began last week with more than 1,100 bills filed by lawmakers.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's annual law making session in Baton Rouge will be postponed in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, legislators announced Monday. 

Louisiana legislative leaders have agreed to temporarily suspend their lawmaking session as health officials announced the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow.

The Legislature was responding to growing calls to recess its work rather than allow hundreds of people from around the state to continue attending committee hearings and votes. 

“The public health crisis at hand has placed the legislature in unchartered waters,” said Senate President Page Cortez. “With every decision we make, we are balancing the health and welfare of our citizens, staff, and legislators with our constitutional responsibilities. At this time, we believe it is in the best interest of our state to temporarily adjourn the session.”

The latest figures released Monday from the Louisiana Department of Health show 114 positive tests for the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, with 79 of those in Orleans Parish. 

Two people have died in Louisiana. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

Multiple legislators confirmed to The Baton Rouge Advocate that a joint resolution was set to be passed Monday afternoon that would suspend the session for two weeks, until the beginning of April. 

The legislative session, typically 85 days, started last week with more than 1,100 bills filed by lawmakers.  Prior to the pandemic, legislators were set to consider whether to legalize sports betting and recreational marijuana, whether to do away with Louisiana's use of the death penalty or change the means of execution, how to spend a multimillion-dollar surplus and what approach they'll try to combat high car insurance rates. 

THE ADVOCATE: Louisiana Legislature to suspend session in latest step to battle coronavirus

“It’s hard to do the people’s business when this is such a big problem and concern,” said state Rep. Barry Ivey, a Central Republican told The Advocate. “If you’re going to just focus on essential bills, what does that look like?”

What you need to know about COVID-19: 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.

Worldwide illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including severe pneumonia that can result in hospitalization or death. 

Older people and people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or cancer seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.

People with recent travel to China, or have come in contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have a greater risk for becoming ill.

What to do if you are sick:

If you recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 transmission, and you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the doctor without calling first.

If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Louisiana Department of Health hotline at 1-855-523-2652. 

If you are severely ill and you think you need to go to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.

How to Prevent the Spread:

The virus is thought to spread between people in close contact (within 6 feet) and through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Especially wash hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home if you feel sick to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Cover your cough with your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.

Treatments for COVID-19:

There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19. People with coronavirus should be treated with supportive care to help relieve symptoms. 

Some severe cases require going to the hospital, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.

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RELATED: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Interactive Map

RELATED: LIST: New Orleans-area cancelled and postponed events

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