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'There is more virus in our community' Jefferson Parish president says

Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said testing centers are reaching capacity quicker and percentage of positive tests are increasing.

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — Leaders in Jefferson Parish are warning of an uptick in coronavirus cases rivaling the first peaks of the virus earlier this year.

In a news conference Monday, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said that last week the parish surpassed 1,000 new cases in a single week for the first time since April. 

"We are in the midst of this still, very much," Lee Sheng said.

She said that the parish has seen an uptick in cases since mid-June, a trend shared across Louisiana.

Lee Sheng moved to dispel arguments in the community that recent upticks are solely driven by increased testing. Specifically, the percentage of positive tests returning daily has increased from 3-5% in June to upwards of 20% in recent weeks.

Also in those two weeks, daily testing capacity at community testing centers has been reached sooner, sometimes even before those centers open their doors for the day.

"There is more virus in our community, and that is seen by the people waiting in line who are not feeling well or have been told they were exposed, as well as the percent positive we are seeing coming back," Lee Sheng said.

As of Monday, Jefferson Parish has reported 11,256 cases and 495 deaths since the coronavirus outbreak began in March. In Monday's update, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 156 new cases and 2 deaths since Sunday. Jefferson Parish leads the state in number of reported cases and tests conducted. 

RELATED: Track COVID-19: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Map

Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry A. Cvitanovich said the number of deaths in the parish has remained low, but he expects those numbers to, unfortunately, rise in the coming weeks.

"Death will typically trail a spike by a few weeks," Cvitanovich said.

The coroner said that data shows increasing numbers of people over 60 who are now testing positive with the virus despite national headlines that the majority of new cases in the summer have been from younger people.

Lee Sheng also announced a new online dashboard showing Jefferson Parish specific COVID-19 data, including cases, testing, and hospital capacity. The dashboard also includes a map of "hotspots" in the parish using census tracts. 

Click here to view the Jefferson Parish COVID-19 Dashboard. 

Lee Sheng said that 2,599 business complaints have been registered with the parish's COVID-19 compliance hotline. Ten inspectors have already visited 50 businesses to talk about compliance with the state and local mandatory mask mandates. Inspectors have already visited four businesses a second time and Lee Sheng said that misdemeanor summons could be issued to businesses on a third visit. 

"We want to get people to comply," Lee Sheng said. "We really don't want to be in the enforcement game, but I know, from a public policy perspective, if you have a rule, you have to have enforcement there."

Despite the number of complaints, Lee Sheng thanked the community for its "tremendous" response to complying with the mask mandate.

"Let's come together and fight this common enemy," Lee Sheng said. 

RELATED: Another 1,700 COVID-19 cases reported Monday, hospitalizations top 1,300 statewide

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