St. John re-opening will come in phases: Parish president talks road to recovery, focus on health education

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 25, 2020

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LAPLACE – The reopening of St. John the Baptist Parish will come in phases and mandate a detailed and data-driven approach, according to Parish President Jaclyn Hotard.

During a Wednesday afternoon press conference in LaPlace, Hotard said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to select an arbitrary date to return to normal operations. Given the invisible threat that persists in the community, the path to recovery must be in the best interest of all St. John Parish residents.

“I understand the desire to get back to business as usual, but the health and safety of our community has always been and always will be our No. 1 priority,” Hotard said. “I will not make any decisions based on gut or instinct. I will act on science and defer to our health experts. I implore your patience as we navigate through this unprecedented disaster that has viciously attacked our small community.”

As of the Friday update from the Louisiana Department of Health, there were 736 reported positive cases of COVID-19 in St. John the Baptist Parish and 63 deaths, many of which have stemmed from a cluster of positive cases at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve.

Hotard reminded residents that, even after businesses and restaurants reopen, the threat of the coronavirus will linger. She said it is imperative to remain mindful of social distancing in public spaces and protect vulnerable populations from the spread of disease.

“I’m asking all of the residents of St. John, get comfortable with wearing a mask…This will be the new normal,” Hotard said. “We know coronavirus will not just suddenly disappear. We will have to proceed in this new normal as if we are still under all the restrictions. We’ll have to continue social distancing.”

The prevalence of co-morbid health conditions such as diabetes and obesity has made COVID-19 lethal in Louisiana communities, according to Hotard.

“After we get through the coronavirus, the next component will be educational, making sure that our communities are healthier overall so when we do get faced with the next disease, we are prepared to deal with that,” Hotard said.

Teche Action Clinic CEO Dr. Gary M. Wiltz was pleased to see 23 new patients who can now start to receive primary health care, contributing to a stronger community.