Bars in St. Tammany May now Operate at 50% Capacity as Percent Positivity Rate Drops
St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper announced that effective 5 p.m. today, March 18, 2021, bars located in St. Tammany may now operate at 50% capacity as the Percent Positivity Rate in St. Tammany has moved below 5% for two consecutive weeks, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
“St. Tammany citizens have worked hard to adhere to best prevention practices, and many who are eligible are choosing to get the vaccine. These factors are impacting our positivity rates in a good way,” said President Mike Cooper.
The specific language in Proclamation Number 29 JBE 2021 COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Phase 3 of Resilient Louisiana states: “If a bar is located in a parish that has a percent positivity of 5% or less for two consecutive weeks, as determined and published by the Louisiana Department of Health, the bar may operate at 50% capacity, not to exceed 250 people, as determined by the State Fire Marshal. Should any parish that opts in subsequently exceed 5% positivity for two consecutive weeks, bars in that parish shall return to 25% capacity.”
“One year ago, St. Tammany, like much of the rest of the world, was faced with the reality of COVID-19. We came together as community and faced the uncertainty of a novel virus, loss of lives to this disease, and sacrifices we all had to make in order to protect the most vulnerable among us, as well as our frontline healthcare professionals. We did this to balance the health of our community with the health of our economy,” said Mike Cooper, St. Tammany Parish President.
President Cooper went on to say, “I am thankful and proud of the way we worked together and I am proud of where we now stand. Let’s continue to move forward by making individual choices to protect one another, and by utilizing the vaccine to protect ourselves as we mourn the lives of those we lost to this disease, celebrate those who have recovered, and thank the people who lovingly cared for them all.”
St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper announced that St. Tammany Parish Government buildings will officially reopen to the public Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 8 a.m. All visitors will undergo COVID-19 screenings and will be required to wear a mask when inside Parish buildings, in addition to while visiting Parish-owned playgrounds like the Kids Konnection and the playground at Camp Salmen Nature Park, in keeping with the mask mandate.
“We are ready to welcome citizens back to our buildings. We ask that everyone be prepared to undergo screenings, and please wear a mask,” President Cooper said. “We want to build on our forward momentum and for that reason, we still need to take responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19, by continuing to take necessary precautions.”
Parish Government employees will resume on-campus work at full occupancy. Parish-run litter abatement crews utilizing staff working to fulfill Community Service obligations will continue but with increased capacity. The Department of Animal Services will welcome volunteers back to the Shelter.
While appointments are no longer required to complete Parish business, they are recommended.
Agencies located in the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center will operate as follows:
After Weeks of Improvement in COVID Hospitalizations and Case Counts, Louisiana Will Move to Phase 3, Statewide Mask Mandate Will Continue
Following almost six weeks of improvements in Louisiana’s COVID case counts and a sustained decrease in COVID-related hospitalizations, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today that Louisiana will move forward to Phase 3. This will bring most COVID restrictions back to where they were last September. Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since last July, will remain in place. The Governor’s new order will last for 28 days and will expire March 31, 2021.
Overall, Louisiana’s percent positivity for COVID-19 tests is 5 percent, one third of the positivity rate six weeks ago. The state has completed more than 6 million COVID tests and administered more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Since we stepped back into more increased restrictions more than three months ago, the goal has been to slow the spread and avoid overwhelming our hospitals, which we have done thanks to the hard work of many Louisianans,” Gov. Edwards said. “These Phase 3 restrictions will keep some common sense and lifesaving limitations in place while we work to continue keeping the case counts down and administering the vaccines to as many Louisianans as quickly as we can.
“As we are cautiously reducing some of the restrictions related to slowing the spread of COVID, it is even more critical that people take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and those around them. This includes wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, washing their hands frequently, staying home when they are sick or have been exposed and getting the vaccine when it is their turn. The last several weeks have been full of hopeful milestones, including a third COVID vaccine and the state administering more than one million doses. But we also know that COVID variants, which we know are more contagious, are active in Louisiana. In nearly a year of battling this pandemic, we have lost almost 10,000 of our fellow Louisianans, and many people have suffered greatly. It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to help put this pandemic behind us and save lives.”
The majority of businesses, including restaurants and salons, will be able to move to 75 percent of their capacity and indoor gatherings and event centers will be capped at 50 percent of their capacity but limited to 250 people. Religious services will no longer have capacity limits, social distancing is strongly encouraged and masking will still be required.
Gyms and fitness centers will remain at 50 percent of their capacity, based on recent research from the CDC that raises concern about the spread of COVID-19 in these settings. Bars in all parishes will be able to open for indoor service at 25 percent capacity, not to exceed 250 people, but those in parishes where the percent positivity is 5 percent or lower for two consecutive weeks may have indoor service at 50 percent capacity, not to exceed 250 people. Alcohol sales still must end at 11 p.m. and no one younger than 21 years old can enter a bar. Patrons must be masked at all times except when consuming food or drink, and they must be served at socially distanced tables.
Live music will be allowed indoors under additional guidance provided by the State Fire Marshal. Indoor gatherings may operate at 50 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people. Outdoor events may operate at 50 percent of their capacity, with no cap on attendance, but six feet of social distancing must be practiced. Conventions, conferences, indoor sporting events and fairs and festivals may operate at up to 50 percent capacity with six feet of social distancing required, if they receive approval from the State Fire Marshal and the Louisiana Department of Health. Strict masking continues to be required for all gatherings and events.
Click here to read the Governor’s new Phase 3 order.
Click here to review the data about COVID incidence statewide.
Click here to view the new Phase 3 guidance on OpenSafely.la.gov.
As we head into the Mardi Gras holiday weekend, St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper is relying on each and every St. Tammany resident to take personal responsibility, and heed the advice of medical professionals to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“St. Tammany Parish, like much of Louisiana, is preparing to celebrate the Mardi Gras holiday, albeit in different, more creative ways. We ask each of you to refrain from large gatherings — especially with people from outside of your own household, wear a mask in public, and continue to take precautions.”
President Cooper went on to say, “We are seeing our numbers decline with each passing week. Let’s plan to keep it that way, as we take the necessary precautions during Mardi Gras. Our goals have always been to lessen the burden on our hospitals and healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients for nearly a year, and to balance the health of our community with the health of our economy. With everyone working together, we can achieve these goals and get through this pandemic.”
Governor announced minimum age eligibility reduced to 65 and first responder rules widened
Louisiana will expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines on Monday (Feb. 8), Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in a Thursday press conference, lowering the minimum age from 70 to 65 and adding all first responders, not just those providing healthcare and vaccinations.
Those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, based on criteria outlined by Louisiana Department of Health at LDH.la.gov/CovidVaccine/, can call 985-898-4001 to schedule an appointment through St. Tammany Health System.
When vaccines first became publicly available in December, they were limited only to Louisianans 70 and older, due to that group’s increased vulnerability to complications from the disease, and to healthcare professionals, due to their increased chances of exposure.
Increased availability of vaccine made it possible to widen eligibility, Edwards said.
“This is great news in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Mike Hill, an infectious disease specialist at St. Tammany Health System. “The quickest and safest way for us to defeat this pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and we’re excited for the opportunity to protect more of our neighbors here in St. Tammany.”
Dr. Hill added that both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine – each of which requires two doses – have proven to be both safe and effective in combating the virus.
“I got my vaccine in December, and I strongly encourage everyone in St. Tammany Parish to do the same as soon as you become eligible,” he said.
The expansion of vaccine eligibility comes at a crucial time, as COVID infections appear to be leveling off in Louisiana following a holiday season spike that stressed hospitals statewide. It also comes just as health officials warn against mass gatherings on Mardi Gras, which is Feb. 16 this year, and which could see another surge of infections.
St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper is leading by example as he has self-quarantined — out of an abundance of caution — after experiencing mild flu-like symptoms and a fever last weekend. He is following St. Tammany Parish Government COVID-19 protocols, as well as the advice of medical professionals.
He has had a rapid COVID-19 test, which was negative, and is currently awaiting the results of a conventional test, expected in the next five to seven days.
He is currently working from home where he is in constant contact with staff, attending meetings via zoom and over the phone, and isolating so as not to come in contact with others. He is expected to return to work on the Koop Drive campus when he is cleared to do so by a physician.
We wish you a quick recovery Parish President Mike Cooper!
The following is an update from Covington Mayor Mark Johnson. Sign up for Mayor Mark’s emails at www.covla.com
The Post Office in Covington serves the 70433 and 70435 zip codes. This covers an area of 150 square miles and a population of about 60,000.
The City of Covington only accounts for about 11,000 of that 60,000. This often leads to confusion among residents that “have a Covington address” but do not actually live in Covington. These residents live in “unincorporated St. Tammany” just as those in Metairie live in unincorporated Jefferson Parish.
Infections in 70433 and 70435 on the Rise
Throughout most of June Covington zip codes averaged 3 – 4 new Covid infections each day (think 100 per month). The hospital occupancy rate declined from a high of 42 to a low of 2. Few of us personally knew anyone infected.
As of the first 15 days of July, we are now experiencing an average of 14 – 15 new cases per day (think 400 per month). The symptoms range from minor (loss of taste) to severe illness to death. St. Tammany Health System’s hospitalizations increased to 22, then to 28. I now know of 11 people infected (including one hospitalized and one dead).
St. Tammany Health System (STHS) continues to be ready and active in this fight. Early innovations and altered operations have served our community well. They continue to be stocked up and prepared for surge capacity, and continue to innovate as needed.
Please wear a mask, wash your hands, keep a social distance of six feet from others, contain coughs and sneezes and stay home when you feel ill. Infection prevention comes down to individual personal responsibility. It is on each of us to bear the responsibility of containing this disease and slowing its spread.
While this escalation is cause for heightened awareness, it is no cause for alarm. The Hospital has expanded bed capacity and arranged isolation units to best prepare for a balance between caring for COVID and non-COVID patients. They have implemented safe waiting spaces in all locations and have plans for more.
Thanks to Fire Chief Gary Blocker and to Melissa Hodgson of STHS for their assistance in compiling this information.
City Hall, Public Works
We have one infection each at City Hall and Public Works. All individuals with direct contact have been tested and are working from home. If positive, they will continue their quarantine. City Hall business should be conducted by phone or e-mail whenever or wherever possible. Public Works is working “on call” for emergencies only till more testing results are available.
Utility Bill Pay: C’mon man, it’s 2020
For those with checking accounts and solid account balances, please consider auto-check withdrawal. Much of the work in our utility billing department is opening thousands of pieces of mail, endorsing thousands of checks, depositing them and then data entry into accounts receivable. Twentieth century processes in the 21st century – very inefficient.
If you opt for auto-draft, always be certain to check your bill against the withdrawal. Regarding “bills,” I hope for us to offer paperless billing soon.