News alert: Louisiana sees first presumed case of coronavirus

A Jefferson Parish resident is presumed to have Louisiana’s first positive case of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, and is being hospitalized in Orleans Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The announcement came this afternoon from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office as the coronavirus spreads throughout the world. At this time, there is only one known case of the illness in the state.

“While today is the first time that we can confirm that we have a presumptive positive coronavirus case, Louisiana has been preparing for this moment for many weeks,” says Edwards in a prepared statement. “The CDC still believes the risk to the general public is low, but we will work quickly and decisively to assess the risk to those around this patient.”

In another prepared statement, interim LDH secretary Stephen Russo says the department was able to test the patient due to recently broadened criteria, adding that “it’s critical to be able to catch COVID-19 early to prevent spread in our communities.”

Louisiana will send the presumptive positive test to the CDC for final confirmation of COVID-19. Because of the reliability of the test, Louisiana will move forward as if the test is an actual positive and take actions to contain the illness and assess the risk of spread.

The Office of Public Health’s epidemiology team will begin an investigation of people who have come in close contact with the patient, including health care workers, to determine the risk of spread.

OPH will administer additional COVID-19 tests to determine if more people have been infected. Some people at risk may be quarantined for 14 days, even if their initial test is not positive.

As an initial step, Louisiana’s recently established COVID-19 Task Force is recommending that all state agencies review and update their Continuity of Operations Plans that were developed statewide in 2012 under GOHSEP direction to take coronavirus into account.

State officials encourage Louisianans to take the following proactive steps to protect the health of themselves and those around them:

  • Cover your cough.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or with a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoiding close contact (within six feet) with those who are sick.

Edwards will discuss the case in his opening remarks for the Legislative session at 1 p.m. and will be joined by public health officials for a media conference in the Governor’s Press Room on the fourth floor of the State Capitol at 3:30 p.m. The governor’s remarks will be streamed at Facebook.com/LouisianaGov.