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Louisiana Coronavirus Updates: 53 new deaths reported Thursday -- now 1,156 dead, 22,532 cases

New Orleans' stay-at-home order has been extended until at least May 16.

NEW ORLEANS — This live blog has ended. Read updates for Friday, April 17 here

Latest Numbers:

  • 1,156 deaths (+53)
  • 22,532 total cases (+581) 
  • 1,943 patients in hospitals (-29)
  • 425 in need of ventilators (-29)
  • 64 of 64 parishes reporting cases
  • 125,586  tests completed (+4,658)

Key Updates: 

  • Mayor LaToya Cantrell has extended New Orleans' coronavirus stay-at-home order to May 16. The state's order still ends April 30, as of Thursday, but is subject to change. 
  • Louisiana has topped 1,150 COVID-19 deaths and 22,532 confirmed cases. 
  • Governor John Bel Edwards has formed a commission of state leaders to plan how to slowly and safely re-open Louisiana's economy. It comes as ESSENCE Festival announced it has cancelled for 2020. 
  • State senators voted along party lines to block a proposal to expand mail-in voting to elderly and at-risk individuals for the presidential primary, which is now in July. 
  • With schools officially ordered to stay closed through the remainder of the academic years, educators are scrambling to adapt to online learning.

Read yesterday's live blog 

Jazz Fest 2020 cancelled 

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the large annual music and food fest that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, has cancelled its plans to hold an event this fall, the organization tweeted Thursday at noon.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our community, including musicians, fans, participants and staff - Jazz Fest 2020 will not occur this fall."

Read more 

St. Tammany planning for virtual high school graduation ceremonies

According to officials with the St. Tammany Parish Public School system, events like proms, award ceremonies and class trips are canceled for all eight district high schools. Leaders say there will be plans in place for in-person commencements if it becomes safe to hold them. 

“We are working on plans for virtual and in-person graduations, if and when it is determined to be safe. We want to honor and celebrate our Class of 2020, and will release dates for virtual graduations as soon as plans are finalized," said STPPS Superintendent Trey Folse.

The update comes as part of a large coronavirus plan the STPPS rolled out Thursday, a day after state education leaders officially announced all Louisiana schools would remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. 

According to parish school officials on the STPPS website, grading and test requirements have changed in response to the pandemic.

Read more 

Jefferson Parish high school graduation ceremonies pushed back to July

The Jefferson Parish Public School system has pushed back its graduation ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

14 of the district's 15 high schools now have commencements scheduled for the second week of July, school officials said in a statement Thursday. It comes the day after state education leaders officially ordered schools closed for the remainder of the academic school year. 

Commencements were originally scheduled from May 9 - May 17. 

Officials said they aim for the postponements to give graduating seniors an "appropriate celebration" as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Thursday has killed more than 1,100 people in Louisiana, according to the health department.

From July 6-9, most graduating classes will celebrate their commencements at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. 

If those dates are not possible because of the pandemic, schools will instead have virtual graduations in mid-July, officials said.

Read more 

City offers food pantries for gig workers impacted by coronavirus shutdowns

 

Second Harvest Food Bank, in partnership with Evacuteer, Culture Aid NOLA and New Orleans Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, has set up two food pantries specifically for hospitality/gig workers to get free meals through the month of April. 

As a tourism-based economy, New Orleans' workforce has been hit especially hard by the shutdown of business to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a move health officials say has been yielding results. 

There are two drive-up locations to pick up food, one in Algiers and one in the St. Claude neighborhood. Thousands of meals and non-perishable foods have already been supplied by volunteers.

The drive-up food pantries will be available every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the month of April, while Governor John Bel Edwards' stay-at-home order remains in place. 

Read more 

New Orleans extends 'Stay at Home' order to May 16

New Orleanians will most likely be staying home for at least another month.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell filed a proclamation extending her 'Stay at Home' order until May 16.

The Mayor's office noted that the order can be lifted at any time should the circumstances warrant change.

The extension comes as Louisiana surpasses 1,100 deaths from COVID-19, 287 of those in Orleans Parish.

Read more

GOP senators reject wider mail-in vote for Louisiana primary

Louisiana Republican lawmakers blocked an emergency voting plan that called for expanding mail-in voting and early voting and other changes to address election fears during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin told members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee his plan is appropriate for the unprecedented circumstances we now face with COVID-19.

The proposal would expand the list of voters who can request a mail-in ballot for the July and August elections. But, the committee blocked the plan along party lines.

Five Republicans voted to defer action on the measure, a lone Democrat voted against the deferral.

Read more 

'I came out of there because you gave me hope': COVID-19 patient thanks nurse who cared for her

A recovering COVID-19 patient credited one of her nurses for helping her survive the virus. She said the nurse gave her the hope to pull through the tough battle.

One month ago, Tonie Williams thought she had a sinus or upper respiratory infection until her doctor told her she needed to be admitted to Tulane Medical Center, suspecting she may have had COVID-19.

She lost hope.

"In walks this little nurse, and she looks at me and says 'how you feeling' and I shook my head," Williams remembers. "She walked over to me and put her hand on my forehead and said 'it's going to be okay.'"

After a few calls to Tulane, WWL-TV tracked her down and surprised her over a Zoom call. 

Read more 

Metairie Manor residents say food, medicine running low under strict quarantine

Frustration is building at the Metairie Manor independent living facility in Metairie, where residents say they're running out of food and medicine under strict quarantine rules.

The rules require anyone who has left the property, for any reason, to self-isolate in their small apartments for 14 days.

"I can't, in my mind, comprehend how they can take my rights away from me," said Denise, who asked WWL-TV to only use her first name out of fear of retaliation. "Not allow me to go walk my dog, wash my clothes, and take my trash out. I'm dumbfounded."

Denise said she left a few days ago to refill her prescription at a pharmacy and now is not even allowed outside to walk her dog.

As she spoke to WWL-TV by phone Wednesday afternoon, a friend from the building was doing laundry for her, as she's not allowed to go to the laundry room.

Read more 

'It's just another hit to the economy': 2020 festival cancellations will affect budget

According to officials with the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the economic impact of the Essence Festival in 2019 was $300 million with an attendance of nearly half a million people, but it’s an impact the city won’t feel this year.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said the state will certainly feel the impact of the loss of so many tourism dollars.

“When you look at events like the Essence, French Quarter Fest, Jazz Festival you are talking hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact,” said Nungesser. “We just came off of our best tourism year ever, $1.8 billion in taxes left here by tourists. That's over $1,000 per family in Louisiana that's going to have to be made up somewhere in the state budget.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards initiated a resilience commission, one that Nungesser sits on, to figure out how to not only open the state’s economy back up but how to open it back up slowly and more importantly safely.

Read more

LSU doctor to study coronavirus weight fluctuations

Has the stress of sheltering in place during the coronavirus outbreak caused you to put on some extra pounds that you plan to take off when things return to normal?

Well fluctuating, even temporarily, may hurt your long-term health, and a federally-funded study can help us understand why. 

You’ve probably seen quarantine memes, reminding us that getting out of our exercise routines and working close to our home refrigerators could have weight consequences.

A doctor at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge said she wants to study the consequences of short term weight fluctuation. 

"There really haven’t been a ton of studies looking specifically at functions of the fat tissue," said Dr. Ursula White, Assistant Professor at LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Read more 

'None of it is ideal, but it is necessary': Students will finish the school year from home

Forced out of school buildings, classrooms across Louisiana are virtual, which has districts still working out the kinks while trying to make sure learning is top priority.

“I’m worried about what’s happening across the board and just trying to make the very best of what is not an ideal situation,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.  

Edwards says there is concern about educational disparity, mainly because of access to technology.

“You know that there are certain parts of the state that are not able to do this as efficiently and effectively as other parts,” Edwards said. “I happen to think while online education is the best alternative, I happen to think students learn best when sitting in the classroom.”

To help meet that need, the New Orleans Public School District recently spent $3.9 million dollars on 10,000 Chromebooks and 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots to keep students and teachers connected.

Read more  

Tools 

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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