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Louisiana Coronavirus Updates: Hospitalization number down for first time in pandemic - now 652 dead, 17,030 cases

Edwards says Louisiana is no longer on track to run out of ventilators this week and is clear for the next two weeks.

NEW ORLEANS — This live blog has ended. Read updates for Thursday, April 9 here

Latest Numbers:

  • 652 deaths (+70)
  • 17,030 total cases (+746)
  • 1,983 patients in hospitals (-13)
  • 490 in need of ventilators (-29)
  • 63 of 64 parishes reporting cases
  • 81,406 tests completed (+6,751)

Key Updates:

  • Louisiana has tied its highest single-day death toll set yesterday, 70, once again, but Governor John Bel Edwards says we still could be witnessing the beginning of the coronavirus curve flattening in the state. 
  • Edwards says Louisiana is no longer on track to run out of ventilators this week and is clear for the next two weeks.
  • More than 652 people have died and almost 2,000 are currently hospitalized from COVID-19, after the first case in the state was identified in New Orleans 30 days ago, on March 9.
  • The state's Stay at Home order is in effect until April 30 but the CDC is considering changing its guidelines to allow healthy, asymptomatic people to return to work.  

Read yesterday's blog

Louisiana's hospitalizations decrease for first time in pandemic 

For the first time after a month of increasing COVID-19 cases in Louisiana, the number of people in the hospital for the disease has gone down, according to the latest data from the Louisiana Department of Health.   

According to the LDH, there are now 1,983 people being treated in hospitals for the virus, down 13 patients from yesterday. It's also the second day in a row that the number of ventilators in use has decreased, with another 29 opening up for patients in critical condition. 

This comes as 70 new deaths were reported by the LDH, tying yesterday's single-day high and bringing the statewide total to 652. 

It's not clear exactly how much the large number of deaths impacted the improved numbers versus how many patients are getting better. COVID-19 recovery numbers are still unavailable for Louisiana. 

It's also important to note that hospitalizations saw a record low on Monday and then a near-record high followed on Tuesday, indicating a lag in reporting. 

Regardless, Gov. Edwards said yesterday during his daily press briefing that Louisiana is no longer on course to run out of ventilators this week and is now clear for at least the next two weeks. 

While New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, the epicenter in the state, suffered a combined 29 new COVID-19 deaths, they only added 298 new cases, the lowest addition since the start of the pandemic. 

Lafourche Parish, however, experienced a tripling in deaths, from four reported yesterday to 11 today, and a doubling in total cases, from 158 to 355.

Cases by parish (SE Louisiana):

  • Orleans: 5,070 cases, 208 deaths
  • Jefferson: 4,092 cases, 149 deaths
  • St. John: 432 cases, 35 deaths
  • East Baton Rouge: 935 cases, 33 deaths
  • St. Charles: 328 cases, 19 deaths
  • St. Tammany: 733 cases, 18 death
  • Terrebonne: 209 cases, 14 deaths
  • Lafourche: 355 cases, 11 deaths
  • St. Bernard 304 cases, 10 deaths
  • St. James: 181 cases, 7 death
  • Plaquemines: 123 cases, 7 deaths
  • Washington: 100 cases, 2 death
  • Tangipahoa: 269 cases, 4 deaths

Tyler Perry pays for elderly shoppers' groceries at 29 Louisiana Winn-Dixie stores, report says

The people most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic got an amazing surprise Wednesday morning when they found entertainment mogul Tyler Perry had paid for their groceries. 

According to People.com, Perry footed the bill for elderly shoppers at 73 grocery stores in Louisiana and Georgia: 29 Winn-Dixie locations in Louisiana and 44 Kroger grocery stores around the Atlanta area.  

Winn-Dixie customers shopping during the store's designated  senior hour were reportedly shocked when they went to check out and were given a note that their purchases had been completed covered by Perry, the New Orleans-born writer, actor, producer and comedian behind the "Madea" series. 

Read more 

Help 'reeling' fishermen by buying Louisiana seafood, governor says

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is asking you to keep the state’s fishermen in mind the next time you go to the grocery store or order takeout from a restaurant.

While many local businesses are struggling to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak, Louisiana’s fishing industry is still reeling from a tough year after the Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened multiple times.

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reopened the flood structure for an unprecedented third straight year. Col. Stephen Murphy says that if there aren’t any more big rains in the Mississippi River’s vast watershed, the spillway will be open for about 30 days.

Read more 

New Orleans family loses four members in 10 days, all battling coronavirus

Four members of a New Orleans family who died within a few days of each other in late March had tested positive for Coronavirus, according to Jason Melancon, Director of Public Information at the New Orleans Coroner's Office.

This includes the matriarch of the Franklin family, 86-year-old Antoniette Franklin, a lifetime New Orleanian who died March 23. 

Her sons, Herman Franklin Jr, 71, Timothy Franklin, 61, and  Anthony Franklin Sr., 58, all died between March 20 and March 30, according to Melancon.

There was a huge outpouring of sadness on social media regarding the death of the Franklin family, friends describing the family as generous and kind.

Read more 

More popular than ever, City Park's cash reserves are running out

Whether it’s a workout or a bike ride, City Park in New Orleans plays a bigger role these days for folks trying to keep some normalcy in a stay-at-home world. However, this new normal is creating some not so normal problems for the park itself.

These 1,300 acres are a much-needed break for families, making daily bike rides part of the routine. 

To Bob Becker, the man in charge of keeping the park operating, that’s no walk in the park these days.

“In some ways, we’re kind of marking time, you know, trying to keep the park up,” said Becker.

As CEO, Becker says 90 percent of the park’s revenue is self-generated, through attractions like the amusement park, miniature golf, and sporting events.  

All of that is closed now, and about 40 weddings had to be postponed. Other money comes from a state tax on gaming machines at the Fairgrounds. That’s closed too.

“We’ve basically lost all of our revenue,” said Becker.

Read more 

'It’s not over until it’s over': Lafourche Parish man released from ICU after surviving battle with COVID-19

Greg Johnson says it took just four days for him to go from chills, fever and a cough to an ICU bed, fighting for his life, after contracting COVID-19.

“I felt as though, for the first few days I didn’t think I was going to make it, to be honest,” Johnson told WWL-TV.

Johnson was the first known coronavirus case in Lafourche Parish, a bayou community south of New Orleans.

“It was very, very bad for three or four days, you know, not knowing if you were going to make it, can’t breathe, can’t move and can’t do the things that you normally could do,” Johnson said. “Once they took an x-ray, it was like 'we have to bring this guy up to the ICU because the lungs are almost blocked.'”

Johnson admits it has been a long, rough journey.

He spent more than a week at Ochsner St. Anne Hospital in Raceland receiving oxygen and battling the virus. Johnson said he was blessed and impressed with the level of care he received.

“That team of doctors and nurses was amazing,” Johnson said. “Without them, I don’t think I could survive it, because I was more than just a patient to them.”

He has now been cleared to go back his real estate investment job.

Read more 

Danny Becnel Jr., high profile trial lawyer, dies at 75

Daniel "Danny" Becnel Jr., one of south Louisiana’s most prominent trial lawyers who represented plaintiffs in class action lawsuits that made national headlines, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 75.

Becnel, who was well-known in the River Parishes, was reported as being seriously ill in late 2015, soon after waging an unsuccessful campaign for St. John the Baptist Parish President. For many years, Becnel battled leukemia. Several years ago he also underwent surgery to donate a kidney to his brother Robert, also a lawyer. 

A 2010 Bloomberg profile said Becnel has "represented in some of the highest-profile class actions in American history, from fen-phen diet pills and Big Tobacco to Dow Corning breast implants," as well as Toyota sudden-acceleration cases.

Read more 

Doctor warns of deadly consequences as elective surgeries delayed for coronavirus

A Northshore doctor is warning that COVID-19 could cost lives even among those who don't contract the virus; the statewide stop on non-emergency surgeries could have deadly consequences.  

"I have a patient that was supposed to get a mastectomy for breast cancer this month and it’s been put off two months. I don’t know about you, but if I had cancer, I would not want that put off two months," said Dr. Chad Domangue of Cypress Point Pain Management in St. Tammany Parish.

"We do about 700 elective cases a month," he said about his hospital. "Spine, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, you name it. You also have surgery centers and cardiologists that do outpatient procedures as well. You’re talking about 200,000 that have been on hold."

And the waiting is fraying some people's nerves. 

"I think this is the most stressed that I’ve ever been," said patient Amy Cuneo, 36.   

Read more 

City moving some homeless residents to hotel in New Orleans East citing 'logistical issues' in CBD

Dozens of the city’s homeless were moved Tuesday from a Central Business District Hotel to another hotel in New Orleans East.

That move -- the second such in as many weeks -- comes as social workers try to get them the help they need to kick substance-abuse problems, to sign up for healthcare and to look for jobs and permanent housing.

Nearly 200 people were offered temporary housing on March 26 after the city cleared out the large homeless encampment at Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue, as well as one in Duncan Plaza across from City Hall.

The city and state made the call to clear out the encampment after some people who lived there tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more 

Clancy: It's up to you to check on your loved ones in nursing homes

Nursing homes have been an epicenter of COVID-19 cases nationwide, not just here in Louisiana.

Last week the state stopped identifying nursing homes whose residents have the virus. The state still provides the total number of nursing homes with COVID cases, the number of nursing home residents who have it, and the number of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes.

The governor’s office says this decision was made by epidemiologists in the state Health Department, and it tracks the CDC’s recommendations. Other states are following this policy as well.

The bottom line is this: If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you’ll have to call the home to find out if your loved one is at risk.

Read more 

LSU School of Dentistry uses 3D printers to make PPE

SU School of Dentistry is switching gears to help battle the COVID-19 crisis. They're using 3D printers to make personal protective equipment, also known as PPE.

LSU Health Dental School usually uses 3D printers to make dentures, splints, and surgical guides, but now they're serving a new purpose by being used to create N95 masks and face shields. 

"We started talking about how can we help get the PPEs we need," said Dr. Karen Bruggers, Head of Prosthodontics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry. 

She's working with Dr. Robert Laughlin, Chairman of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry. 

"You have to think -- well, we can't just order these. What do we have available to us that we can use to put something together to get through this challenging time," Laughlin said. 

They're using 3d printers to create reusable N95 masks from a flexible plastic that can be cleaned. They're pairing that up with an N99 filter that can be replaced. 

Read more 


MORE: Drive-thru coronavirus test locations in Southeast Louisiana

MORE: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Interactive Map

MORE: COVID-19 Timeline: See how fast things have changed in Louisiana

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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