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Louisiana Coronavirus Updates: Now 1,213 dead, 23,118 cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana

New statistics show that well over half of virus deaths in Jefferson Parish are on the West Bank, many clustered in black communities in Marrero and Harvey.

NEW ORLEANS — Latest Numbers:

  • 1,213 deaths (+57)
  • 23,118 total cases (+586)
  • 1,868 patients in hospitals (-46)
  • 363 in need of ventilators (-33)
  • 64 of 64 parishes reporting cases
  • 131,987 tests completed (+6,401) 

Key Updates: 

  • Jazz Festival, the city's largest event of the festival season, has been cancelled.
  • Governor John Bel Edwards says Louisiana will not wait until things are "back to normal" to open the economy, and has created a commission to plan on doing so slowly and safely. 
  • Small business owners have been left hanging after loan money from the federal government dried up. Still, some owners worry re-opening the economy too quickly will be more costly. 
  • New numbers in Jefferson Parish show COVID-19 is largely impacting black communities on the West Bank.   

Read yesterday's live blog 

Death report slows as hospitalizations continue to drop

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 57 more COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 1,213. 

There was a significant decrease of ventilators in use and hospitalizations, both of which have now trended down for more than a week. 

There was a small percent increase in testing, with 6,401 new completed tests reported Friday. Still, the total cases in the state climbed by 586 to 23,118, a number that has increased steadily between 500 and 1,000 every day this week. 

New Orleans now reports 5,906 and 317 deaths, with an increase of 59 new cases reported Friday. This is the sixth day of double-digit increases for the city, as opposed to triple digit increase. 

Jefferson Parish, however, continues to catch up to New Orleans in cases, now with 5,476, and 269 deaths. 

Cases by parish (SE Louisiana):

  • Orleans: 5,906 cases, 317 deaths
  • Jefferson: 5,476 cases, 269 deaths
  • East Baton Rouge: 1,424 cases, 66 deaths
  • St. Tammany: 961 cases, 66 death
  • St. John: 623 cases, 50 deaths
  • St. Charles: 471 cases, 26 deaths
  • Terrebonne: 293 cases, 18 deaths
  • Lafourche: 542 cases, 21 deaths
  • Tangipahoa: 435 cases, 18 deaths
  • St. James: 216 cases, 14 death
  • Plaquemines: 152 cases, 11 deaths
  • St. Bernard 404 cases, 11 deaths
  • Washington: 184 cases, 11 death

Ochsner hospitals seeing decline in COVID-19 patients in Louisiana, CEO says

COVID-19 cases at Ochsner hospitals are decreasing, and hospital staff believe if the trend continues they will be able to move resources back to surgeries and procedures that aren't coronavirus related, according to Ochsner's CEO, Warner Thomas. 

Thomas said Friday that Ochsner's New Orleans-area hospitals have about 400 COVID-19 patients, about half of the number they had at their peak. 

And the number of people coming into the hospitals with coronavirus symptoms is shrinking, he said. 

"I think that we anticipate over the next several days or a week or so, we'll start back into more normal operations, getting surgeries going and getting more colonoscopies and other types of procedures that, frankly, have been delayed over the past several weeks," Thomas said.  

In total, Thomas estimates that Ochsner has treated about 7,000 COVID-19 patients. But only about 2,000 of those patients actually required hospitalization. The rest were sent home. 

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New Orleans offers aid to renters impacted by the coronavirus

Evictions may be on hold in New Orleans due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but renters are still responsible for making their rent payments. To help renters that may have been impacted by the virus, the city has partnered with Total Community Action to offer rental assistance.

The program launched on April 1 and is open to anyone whose household income has been reduced due to the pandemic and is not getting rental assistance from other organizations.

Impacts can include job loss, furlough or layoff, reduction in hours of work or pay, business closure or needing to miss work to care for a home-bound school-age child or elderly person.

To apply, residents should call the New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Community development at 504-658-4200 or apply online here.

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Voodoo Festival cancels 2020 event

The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience has cancelled its 2020 festival, the latest major event in New Orleans to do so because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organizers of the annual Halloween music and cultural festival in City Park made the announcement the day after the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival said they were canceling their event. The Voodoo Experience tweeted the news Friday morning.  

"While we are disappointed to share this news, the health and safety of our fans, artists, staff and community remains our top priority," the statement read.

Voodoo Fest, Jazz Fest and ESSENCE Fest have all cancelled their 2020 events in the days following New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's recommendation to push back all major gatherings in the city until next year. 

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Unsung heroes: Louisiana's National Guardsmen have been on the front lines of COVID-19 since the start 

First responders and medical professionals have been on the front lines, fighting to heal COVID-19 patients and keep our community safe.

Our military members have been by their side, helping however they can, every step of the way. 

The 256th Infantry Brigade combat team with the Louisiana Army National Guard has been hard at work for weeks, assisting nurses, doctors and non-profits to keep the community healthy.

Although most are not medical staff themselves, the guardsmen have been at testing sites around Southeast Louisiana, working hand-in-hand with teams to test those who may have COVID-19.

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WWOZ encourages listeners to "Jazz Fest in place" with archived festival radio broadcasts

This year's New Orleans and Jazz Heritage Festival may be canceled, but WWOZ still plans to bring the music and culture of New Orleans to the world as it does every year, presenting archived broadcasts of Jazz Fests past.

Beginning April 23 and running for eight days (just like the real festival), community radio station WWOZ 90.7 FM (wwoz.org) will broadcast shows from past Jazz Festivals. The broadcasts will air for eight hours each day, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and will run on the same days and hours as the originally scheduled Jazz Fest (April 23-26 and April 30-May 3).

On Thursday, organizers announced they would be cancelling this year's event, which had been postponed until the fall in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Governor: We won't wait until things are back to normal to reopen economy

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has a created an 18-member commission to help the state plot a course for eventually reopening businesses shuttered during the fight against the new coronavirus, he announced Thursday. 

Edwards said the group would be charged with how to: "Get businesses open, workers back to work, but in a way that adequately protects public health."

Edwards stressed Thursday that reopenings won't be immediate. He said stay-at-home orders have been crucial in stopping the spread of the disease.

He also stressed that people shouldn't think that reopening the economy will mean that things are returning to normal.

Read more 

Small business owners scramble after loan program runs out of money

Scores of businesses across the city are shuttered by Louisiana’s Coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Campus Connection owner David Cariello said. “My business is dying on the vine and my hands are tied.”

Cariello turned to the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for relief. It offers small businesses a forgivable loan to pay expenses for the next two months if they keep their employees on the payroll.

Cariello applied for the loan nearly two weeks ago. He says his bank, Capital One, left him hanging.

Thursday, the $349 billion program ran out of money in 13 days.

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Some business owners worry reopening too soon could do more harm than good

For Liz Cooke, the owner of Lionheart Prints, staying open during the Coronavirus pandemic has meant adapting her business.

"I've been doing a lot of local deliveries. I feel like I'm Santa Claus," Cooke laughed. "I'm just bringing people puzzles and cards and things right to their house, so that's really fun."

She said puzzles are flying off the shelves as fast as she can get them in stock. She has also scheduled FaceTime shopping sessions to assemble care packages or gifts for customers without ever entering the store.

But as much as she'd like things to go back to normal, Cooke is not willing to rush going "back to normal" before things are safe for everyone.

"I lost my mom last year. And thinking about people who are losing their loved ones, and losing everything... I'm going to do whatever it takes to slow the spread, and we're going to do the right thing. We're not going to open a day before its safe," she said.

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'Six feet apart or six feet under': COVID-19 hitting JP's West Bank, black residents hard

When a racial breakdown of Louisiana's COVID-19 cases was first released last week, it showed that African-Americans are dying at a higher rate than the rest of the population, largely due to economic status, less access to health care and underlying health conditions.

Numbers from Jefferson Parish now show that the troubling trend is holding true there, with a disproportionate number of cases clustered on the West Bank, where a majority of the parish’s black population lives.

New statistics show that out of Jefferson Parish's 247 COVID-19 deaths, 134 were on the West Bank, many clustered in the black communities in Marrero and Harvey.

So while only 44 percent of Jefferson's population lives on the West Bank, 54 percent of the coronavirus deaths have hit there.

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Jazz Fest cancellation more than just a financial loss for musicians, vendors

In the same week the mayor of New Orleans recommended large festivals cancel any plans for the rest of the year, one of the city’s largest, Jazz Fest, made its cancellation official.

That leaves musicians and vendors a bit bummed out, but hopeful of what’s to come.

“I do alligator sauce piquante, shrimp and okra gumbo and shrimp and grits,” said Mike Gowland as he talked about his anticipated menu as a Jazz Fest food vendor.  

In what would have been his 20th year at Jazz Fest, those adjustments aren’t happening, because the festival is no longer on the menu.

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Domestic violence calls increasing with 'Stay-at-Home' order

COVID-19 is causing thousands of Americans to stay inside with their families, but an unfortunate domino effect is being seen with “stay-at-home” mandates. 

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are getting more reports of domestic violence in households.

Since “stay-at-home” orders went into effect in mid-March, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports more than 3,000 domestic abuse survivors have reached out citing COVID-19 as a condition of their experience. Hotline representatives told WWL-TV that survivors have reported their partners using COVID-19 to further control and abuse.

In Jefferson Parish, the sheriff's office says they’ve seen an increase in domestic disturbance calls to homes. The New Orleans Family Justice Center, which works to help domestic abuse survivors, has also seen an increase in people reaching out.

New Orleans Family Justice Center 24/7 Hotline: 504-866-9554

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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Orleans Parish jail staffer dies from COVID-19 complications

A member of the Orleans Parish Jail’s staff has died from COVID-19.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced the staff member’s death Thursday, but did not identify the staff member or say what their role inside the prison was.

“They were a valued member of our OPSO family for several years and will be greatly missed,” Gusman said. “Our thoughts and condolences are with their family and friends.”

As of April 16, 47 OPSO employees have tested positive for COVID-19 according to the sheriff. Of those, eight have returned for work.

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Bayou Classic organizers hope time is on their side as more major events cancel

With Mayor Cantrell calling on major events to focus on 2021 and organizers swiftly responding, many were left asking what about football season?

In canceling games like Bayou Classic, it’s often forgotten that the weekend attracts more than 200,000 visitors to New Orleans and doesn’t just generate funds for the city but for the two institutions: Southern University A&M College and Grambling State University.

Fortunately for the Bayou Classic you're talking about Thanksgiving weekend,” McClelland said. “So, it does stretch out and give you an opportunity to buy some time.”

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School band finds a way to play together from home

Kids who are part of their school band can't perform together right now, at least not in person. One New Orleans school found a way to still make music as a band.

"We still got to record our songs and put them together which is the best part about it," said 8th-grade violinist Samuel Kyle.

He's part of the studio band at St. Paul's Episcopal School. They've been practicing all year for their big show, Jazz Jam. 

"Several hundred people come too. It's a dinner theater show, and these kids have been working hard all year," said the Studio Band Director Steven Thompson. 

They were forced to cancel it, but they weren't forced to stop playing.

Read more

Lawyer for Louisiana pastor Tony Spell hospitalized with coronavirus 

A lawyer who represents the Baton Rouge-area pastor who notoriously defied Louisiana’s stay-at-home has reportedly been hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

According to The Advocate, Jeff Wittenbrink has been at Baton Rouge General Hospital since Tuesday after his health condition progressively worsened including high fever and persistent cough. He serves as local counsel for former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who is helping to represent Rev. Tony Spell in a legal battle over Louisiana’s social distancing restrictions.

Spell was issued a summons earlier this month for holding services previously at the church in violation of the governor's order banning gatherings.

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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