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Louisiana Coronavirus Updates: More than 1,500 in state have died from COVID-19

Louisiana surpassed 25,000 coronavirus cases yesterday, although new cases are plateauing. A large, unknown majority of infected have recovered.

NEW ORLEANS — This live blog has ended. See updates for Friday, April 24 here 

Latest Numbers:

  • 1,540 deaths (+67)
  • 25,739 total cases (+481)
  • 1,727 patients in hospitals (-20)
  • 274 patients on ventilators (-13)
  • 64 of 64 parishes reporting cases
  • Total tests conducted under review by state health department

Key Updates: 

  • The threat of strong thunderstorms and possible tornadoes has closed several coronavirus testing sites in Southeast Louisiana today. 
  • Governor John Bel Edwards says Louisiana has officially reached the plateau in coronavirus cases. 
  • Doctors believe people are delaying needed treatment in the hospital because they don't want to catch COVID-19. 
  • Huge lines at food distribution sites continue around the New Orleans area, with backups forming hours before the centers open. 

Read yesterday's live blog

Louisiana approves limited expansion of vote by mail rules

House and Senate committees on Wednesday approved an emergency plan that delays the state’s presidential primary until July 11 and limits efforts to expand the use of absentee ballots because of the coronavirus.  

The plan, prepared by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, reduces the list of reasons that he had proposed last week for voters to qualify to vote by mail.

Ardoin shortened the list after the Republicans on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected his earlier proposal in a party-line vote. 

Under the new plan, voters can still seek absentee ballots if they are at higher risk from the virus because of serious medical conditions or are subject to a medical quarantine order. People with symptoms of COVID-19 or caring for someone subject to a quarantine order also may seek absentee ballots. 

The rules also would apply to state and local elections on August 15. The plan must still be approved by the full House and Senate and by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

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Louisiana's gambling industry shutdown comes with big costs

Lake Charles attracts visitors to its restaurants, events and outdoor adventures, but its luxury casino resorts dominate the city's hospitality and tourism industry.

COVID-19 has shuttered these money-making machines for seven weeks, leaving the booming Lake Charles economically filled with uncertainties.

Tye Robinson, a bellhop at Golden Nugget Lake Charles, collected his last tips from Golden Nugget guests over a month ago.

"I would get a lot of tips, so I would use my cash on my bills and daily necessities," he said.

Robinson was working at the casino when he learned of the closure due to COVID-19.

“I found out the day before we shut the operations down, and I found out from a news report,” he said. “It was news to me.”

Read more 

Severe weather threat closes, limits some testing sites Thursday

The threat of severe weather today will close or limit the public coronavirus testing sites that day.

Several of the sites are closing for the day as the area is under a threat of severe weather that could result in high winds, heavy rain and possible tornadoes.

The following sites are not open:

- St. Charles CLOSED

- St. John  CLOSED

- Alario Center - CLOSED

- Xavier University New Orleans - CLOSED

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Hundreds wait hours for food distribution in Metro area

Cars began lining up before 7 a.m. Wednesday for afternoon food distribution at the Alario Center on the West Bank.

By noon, hundreds of cars lined the entrance road, snaking their way around the event center property past Segnette baseball field.

Second Harvest Food Bank and the Jefferson Parish Council established the Alario Center as one of the main sites to get the food to residents hurting during the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus shutdown.

Rick Kennair pulled up along Airline highway at 7 a.m., “and there were about 25 cars ahead of me,” he said.

Food distribution was scheduled to begin seven hours later at 2 p.m.

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People who need the hospital are delaying treatment for fear of COVID-19 infection, doctors say

Area hospitals and New Orleans EMS are reporting fewer cases of illness like heart attacks and strokes during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving health officials to believe people might be avoiding emergency rooms because they fear they might be infected.

“I would say we are about 40% down in our volume currently from what we’d normally be seeing at this point of the year," said Roland Waguespack, medical director at East Jefferson General Emergency Department. 

He believes the drop in numbers of patients with stroke and heart attacks doesn't mean these illness aren't happening.  

"In south Louisiana and New Orleans -- those medical conditions don't disappear,” Waguespack said. “They are happening and what we are concerned about is that people are afraid that we can't keep them safe in our emergency rooms and hospitals and that they are staying away from us."

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LSU Health needs plasma donations from those who have recovered from COVID-19

Doctors at LSU Health New Orleans have put out a call for plasma donations from people who had the coronavirus disease and have recovered.

“We are looking for donors who have recovered from COVID-19 to provide blood plasma for potential use as therapy in patients with severe and life-threatening COVID-19 at University Medical Center,”  says Yussef Bennani, MD, Assistant Professor in the Section of Infectious Diseases at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

The effort is part of a protocol developed by the Mayo Clinic to expand access to convalescent plasma therapy and to evaluate its safety.

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Window of Opportunity: New Orleans artist creates drive-thru art gallery on plywood covering storefronts

With museums, shops and galleries closed, one New Orleans artist is making use of a unique canvas to reach a stir-crazy audience.

Where some see boarded up buildings, pop artist Joshua Wingerter sees windows of opportunity.

“Everybody’s liking this? I’m like, cool, I’m going to do this as much as I can because I love this," he laughed.

Wingerter is spray painting his way through the plywood covering businesses in the French Quarter, sometimes attracting an audience from people walking or biking by.

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New, but hardly normal - former Zulu King's funeral done at a distance

In normal times, a Zulu king would be remembered differently. All the former kings would gather dressed in white suits and crowns. And a big procession would pass the organization’s clubhouse in Treme. But these aren't normal times right now.

“This is crazy. We are saying goodbye to a Zulu king by driving by a house,” said New Orleans City Councilman Jay Banks, who reigned as King Zulu in 2016. 

“This would've been one of the biggest funerals in the history of the organization had it not been for this pandemic.”

Banks said tradition holds that Zulu members say farewell in a special way.“I'm dressed this way because this is how we say farewell to a king,” Banks said, referring to the crisp white suit he wore Wednesday, which popped with the gold necklace he wore.

But that was about all that was normal when it came to the sendoff for Larry Hammond, King Zulu 2007.

Hammond died March 31 after he became sick with COVID-19. He was 70. He is among eight Zulu members who have died because of the disease.

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Thanh Truong: Buying groceries for a week on the $142 average SNAP benefit for a family of 4

What’s your budget for food during the pandemic? With countless people out of work, so many families are closely watching their money. I consider myself pretty thrifty. It’s a product of being a first-generation refugee. With that in mind, here are some ideas for less expensive meals.

The items we bought are working under the assumption you already have basics, like salt, pepper, and cooking oil. Our budget is $142, which is generally the weekly break down for a family of four under SNAP benefits. You’ll find the meals and groceries we bought for them. The total was $127.57. We didn’t buy sodas, snacks or chips. Most of the items were store brand.

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Study says malaria drug isn't a 'miracle drug' for COVID-19 patients

A Malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for COVID-19, showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals.

A study of COVID-19 patients’ medical records showed higher deaths rates among patients who took hydroxychloroquine compared to those who did not.

Of the 368 cases reviewed, 97 patients who took the drug had a 27.8% death rate. The 158 patients who did not take the medication had an 11.4% death rate.

The VA study was not a randomized trial and it involved very sick people.

Dr. Meredith Clement is an infectious disease specialist with LSU Health New Orleans. She said findings in this particular hydroxychloroquine study should be interpreted with caution.

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The Home Depot donates thousands of N95 masks and PPE to Louisiana, AG says

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry thanked The Home Depot Wednesday for donating “tens of thousands” of N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment to emergency workers in the state.

Landry said some of the southeast Louisiana entities include East Jefferson General Hospital, Grenta Police Department, Jefferson Manor Nursing Home, Oschner Hospital, Slidell Police Department, St. Bernard Parish Hospital, and the New Orleans VA Medical Center Hospital.

"On behalf of Louisiana, I want to offer The Home Deport an enormous amount of thanks for their generous contributions to our State," Landry said.

Read more 


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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