Parish President David Hanagriff announces new COVID-19 measures at a press conference Saturday in Franklin.
Screen Capture from KWBJ
St. Mary government imposes COVID-19 restrictions on stores
Beginning Monday, St. Mary Parish grocery stories, dollar stores, convenience stories and pharmacies will be limited to 6 a.m.-8 p.m. business, and can allow no more customers than 35% of the capacity determined by the fire marshal. The new rules are in executive order from Parish President David Hanagriff.
The new measures against the spread of COVID-19 were announced at a Saturday press conference.
Shoppers are being asked to limit themselves to one person for one cart or basket. Twenty-four-hour pharmacies can operate after hours using drive-through service.
Golf courses can remain open, but carts are limited to one person.
Hanagriff said he issued the order after consultation with St. Mary mayors. He said the order is in force in municipalities as well as in unincorporated areas.
Hanagriff was joined at the live-streamed press conference by Homeland Security Director David Naquin, Sheriff Blaise Smith and Coroner Eric Melancon.
They fielded questions about a parishwide curfew, but the feeling among the officials was that the problem isn't people being out at night.
Smith said he had gone to big and small stores with a notebook and found only 7-10% compliance with social distancing guidelines.
"I've been in stores where it's like a family reunion," Smith said. "You've got to wait for people to move so you can get by them because everybody's sitting there talking.
"So I think what they're instituting now is going to be a big help, because when a store gets to be a gathering place, then that's a gathering place for the virus to spread."
Smith urged people to limit their trips to the store and to ask a friend's headed for a store to shop for them. Hanagriff asked people who can shop on weekdays to avoid going to stores on weekend, leaving room for people who work through the week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies have urged people to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying home as much as possible, staying out of groups of more than 10, maintaining 6 feet of separation from other people, washing hands frequently, and coughing and sneezing into an elbow. Officials are hoping to slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid a sudden spike in hospitalizations and ventilator use that will overwhelm health care resources.
Smith said deputies have had to break up gatherings in local parks, and civic centers had to be closed when students idled by the suspension of classes began to congregate at the centers.
Naquin, the former sheriff who is now the head of parish homeland security, said he was saddened to learn that two first-responders have died from COVID-19-related illness, and another 60 have tested positive.
"Keep Acadian Ambulance in your prayers," Smith said. "These guys and gals go out there every day and answer every call. They have no choice."
Naquin also expressed frustration with delays in testing.
The Louisiana Office of Public Health reported Saturday that 18 new St. Mary people had tested positive for COVID-19 since noon Friday, bringing the total to 65. Naquin said those new results may be the result of a lag in reporting test results from four or five days ago.
Melancon said Saturday that local hospitals can turn around test results in 24-48 hours. Commercial labs can take up to a week. The Chitimacha tribal government was able to obtain a few rapid tests, but Smith said those were used to test inmates at the parish jail.
"The system's broken," Naquin said. "I'm not going to lie about that."