Hospital CEO MaryEllen Pratt Interviewed; Cases Of COVID-19 Continue To Rise In St. James Parish
Please remember that the fight against COVID-19 is a rapidly changing situation, so please stay tuned to local and reliable news sources for the latest: As of April 8, 2020, at noon, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed 181 positive COVID-19 cases and 7COVID-19 related deaths in St. James Parish. Throughout the State of Louisiana there are 17,030 cases of COVID-19 and 652 related deaths. Also, 63 of 64 parishes now have at least one reported case of the coronavirus. The numbers and data do not lie so I feel it is important to reiterate the importance of following the social distancing and other guidelines geared to slow/stop the spread of COVID-19. As the number of positive cases continue to rise in St. James Parish and throughout the state of Louisiana, it proves that there are people who continue to disregard the recommendations and Stay at Home order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards and supported by local elected and medical officials. Stay home, practice social distancing (remain at least 6-feet apart from others), wash your hands often, and do not touch your face. Please follow this. Not just for your health, but for everyone else you care for and love. This virus is killing our loved ones. If there is any chance to limit, or best case stop, the spread of this invisible and sometimes deadly virus, we as residents must take personal responsibility and be good citizens. STAY AT HOME! As I have written in the previous weeks, it is imperative that we, at all times limit close contact with others. If you absolutely must leave your home for work or to pick up essential items, please do it safely and follow the social distancing guidelines while out in public. And, wash your hands. The CDC is now recommending citizens wear a mask (not the medical grade M-95 mask) or at least some type of cloth face cover while out in public. The idea behind this is to try to limit/stop asymptomatic people with the virus from unknowingly spreading it should they cough or sneeze in public. This virus is invisible and it does not discriminate. It does not care if you are white or black, rich or poor. It is also worth repeating that the elderly, and especially those older people with underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and other ailments, are at a much higher risk to need medical assistance, which we all know is in severe short supply. Stay At Home - It’s the right and the moral thing to do. Interview with Hospital CEO MaryEllen Pratt On Monday morning, St. James Hospital (SJPH) CEO MaryEllen Pratt was gracious enough to give the News Examiner-Enterprise a telephone interview and she answered questions and provided some data concerning the fight against COVID-19 here in St. James Parish - the place we call home. Pratt also joined Parish President Peter Dufresne and Sheriff Willy Martin in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday and provided more numbers and statistics. It should be noted that the data discussed throughout the interview was based on the number of tests actually administered at the local hospital, which do include some non-St. James Parish residents. They also do not include Parish residents that may have been tested at other sites outside of St. James Parish. The total positive case numbers are included in the LA Department of Health’s (LDH) numbers, but not in the numbers provided by and discussed by Pratt. For example, on Tuesday’s video, the hospital had administered roughly 170 tests and 95 had come back positive. Also on Monday morning, the LDH reported 167 positive cases in St. James Parish. When asked if there were areas of St. James Parish with more cases than other areas Pratt said her numbers of positive cases show the virus is spread through the entire parish and is not more of a problem on the east bank or the west bank. She also said her numbers show more women (63%) contracting the virus than men (37%). The State average reported is 55% women to 45% men. It should also be noted that of the 95 confirmed cases tested at SJPH that 66% were of African American decent, 33% were caucasian, and 2% were other races. This number is close to the State average of 70% African Americans testing positive. When asked what age groups the virus was most affecting in St. James Parish, Pratt reported (again based on the 95 positive tests) that: 28% are ages 70-above; 23% are ages 60-69; 21% are ages less than 40 years of age; 16% are ages 40-49; and 13% are ages 50-59. So to the younger residents, please heed the advice of the experts. You are not immune from this coronavirus. Concerning hospital admissions, Pratt said as of Monday, 31 patients had been admitted to SJPH suspected of having COVID-19 and 22 of those tested positive. Of the 22 positive cases, five were transported to larger facilities to receive more intensive medical care such as ventilation and several have been discharged to recover. Pratt also said 18 patients have arrived to the SJPH emergency room by ambulance and were immediately transfered to other facilities due to needing more intense treatment. Concerning Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is something we have all heard about as hospitals begin to run short on supplies of masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators and other equipment designed to treat patients and protect healthcare workers, Pratt said SJPH is ok at the moment. During the video Pratt said SJPH currently has a total of four ventilators on site and five more on the way. She also said the hospital has 25-beds and that measures have been taken to add an additional nine beds should they need them (total of 34 hospital beds). Also during the video conference, Pratt said SJPH does have and is treating some patients with Hydroxychloroquine, the medicine being administered to see if it can help treat COVID-19. She thanked companies such as Marathon and Nucor for donating several M-95 masks and other PPE, but did say they were beginning to run low on surgical gowns. Pratt said she and her staff are looking into the possibility of producing homemade, washable gowns, but said more information has to be gathered before gowns are produced. Pratt said she cannot thank the local businesses, industries and the entire community enough for the outpouring of support for SJPH and the staff working in this very hard and stressful time. Food has been cooked and donated to feed the workers, mask covers are being made and donated by local community members, supplies and PPE have been donated by various local industries, and the community has really reached out in many other ways to support the hospital and staff. “We are working in ways that are non-traditional for us,” said Pratt. “I have staff that are working outside their normal jobs. For instance, we have therapists working in material management, surgical nurses working on the floor, surgery techs are working in the COVID unit assisting nurses.” “People are going above and beyond every day in a ton of different ways,” Pratt continued. “We have started a day care to tend to the children of our employees so they can be at work to take care of our patients.” “It is really heroic to see what people are doing to support each other in our community,” Pratt also said. “This is a horrible tragedy. But it is also uplifting to see when people really get pushed how communities come together. It is beautiful to see the level of support that is truly amazing.” “It takes everybody and if there is a good side to this it is to see the community spirit,” said Pratt. Pratt, like all local, state and federal officials and experts, asks the public to please do your part and practice social distancing, to wash your hands numerous times throughout the day, avoid touching your face, and to please stay home unless you absolutely have to go out to get something essential. Public Officials Address the Public Parish President Peter Dufresne *For more information, please also visit the Parish’s website stjamesla.com or go to the Parish’s Facebook page to watch the video press conference. *Asked people who have tested positive to not be ashamed or scared they will be labeled. He asked who test positive to please contact their family members and those they were in contact with so all may self-quarantine. *Said if you are a small business owner, filed a tax return and have a St. James Parish Occupational License, the Parish is committed to helping small business through these tough times. Said to if interested in learning about acquiring assistance to please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Discussed Parish Recreation and said for now, which could change should the Governor’s Stay at Home order be extended past April 30th, the Parish would like to begin baseball in mid-May. Also said should baseball be canceled all will be refunded. Please call Recreation Director Brent Dicharry if you have questions. He can be reached at 225-806-3307. “We will continue to see a rise in numbers (cases of COVID-19) if we do not start taking this even more serious,” said Dufresne. “Please guys, take the Stay at Home order serious, practice social distancing when you have to go out, and hold yourself accountable that all recommendations are being followed.” St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Sheriff Martin addressed the public and stressed several things. *Martin said he is very concerned about this weekend, which is Easter weekend. Martin strongly urged the public to refrain from gathering (crawfish boils, barbecues, large family gatherings) for the traditional holiday. He also said his office will break up any gathering of ten or more people and asked the public to report such gatherings to the Sheriff’s Office. Martin also said those riding around on ATVs will be issued citations and he said it is unacceptable for parents to allow their children to leave their homes unattended to roam through the neighborhoods. Martin said those who call in to report large gatherings or other complaints will remain anonymous. “I am asking the public to do its part,” said Sheriff Martin. “If we really love our family members we need to stay away and stay home.” Martin also said he is allowing local pastors and churches to hold parking lot services and that the local pastors must assure all who attend stay in their vehicles at all times. Concerning the local grocery stores and convenient stores, Martin said his office has been in touch with owners and managers about the importance of practicing social distancing and for now it is up to each individual store to implement measures to help customers abide by the recommendations.