Louisiana Coronavirus: New Orleans on the front line as disaster oversaw six nursing homes

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“It will be the disaster that defines our generation,” Collin Arnold, director of the city’s homeland security and emergency preparedness office, told CNN.

Another concern: as the number of coronavirus cases in the state stands at around 2,305, including dozens of deaths, New Orleans food banks have only two days left of goods, said Arnold.

He called New Orleans “a sort of epicenter” for the state, with nearly 1,700 cases in the metropolitan area, according to state figures.

Arnold’s warning comes as the Louisiana Department of Health says it is monitoring clusters – defined as situations in which two or more cases appear to be connected – in six state nursing homes. The department is working to contain the spread in the facilities, said spokeswoman Mindy Faciane.
One of them – the Lambeth House retirement community of 268 residents in New Orleans – reported 11 deaths on Tuesday, she said.

“The intensity of the sadness that accompanies what our community is currently going through is almost indescribable,” said Christina Fay, director of the board of directors of Lambeth House, in a statement released earlier this week.

The position of the numbers on Thursday is unclear. Due to the number of nursing homes reporting cases and the involvement of multiple healthcare providers, the state health department “will no longer report positive cases,” Faciane said in an email on Wednesday. .

Test results and possibly Mardi Gras fuel spike

The parishes of Jefferson and Orleans, which make up most of the New Orleans metro, were two of the deadliest counties to be infected with the virus, CNN analysis showed data earlier this week earlier. ‘Johns Hopkins University.

They also ranked among the top seven counties in the country – among those who reported 100 or more cases – of deaths per 100,000 population.

Health officials are testing 3,000 people in Orleans alone in Thursday, Arnold said, and expect to get a new test offer and do the same on Friday.

Testing is a big reason for the increase in cases, said Arnold, and Mardi Gras – in which 1.5 million people, including international visitors, converged on the city – is “obviously likely” a variable in the spread of Covid-19 across the city.

Governor John Bel Edwards has ordered state residents to stay at home until April 12, and data shows that movements in the city have decreased by 73%, which Arnold applauded.

“I see it’s pretty empty, and it’s encouraging that people are listening and we need them to really push through it. We know this is a very difficult thing to do, but it is very necessary, “he told CNN.

Surrounded by states that have not implemented mandatory home orders, Arnold believes the guidelines are vital, he said.

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“We need our people to stay at home,” said Arnold. “Someone who says (residence orders are not necessary), they don’t do enough testing. This is the result. It just hasn’t affected them yet, but it’s in their community. It’s here. ”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that he thought officials in New Orleans and Louisiana should have taken action sooner to shut down businesses essential.

“They are now stopping things very vigorously,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s likely that it should have been done a little earlier – don’t blame anyone on this, but you’re caught off guard because of the nature of this epidemic. ”

‘Stay at home’

Edwards spoke with similar urgency on Sunday: “If we want to smooth the curve, we need to take more aggressive mitigation now and limit social contact now. … We must act now. ”

As part of his stay at home order, effective Monday, Edwards has placed restrictions on visits to retirement communities. He warned that state hospitals could reach capacity in a matter of days if cases continued to increase at the current rate.

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The governor has repeatedly said that coronavirus cases are increasing at a frightening rate, adding, “There is no reason to believe that we will not be the next Italy.”

Earlier this week, responding to Edwards’ call that the epidemic was “beyond the capabilities” of state and local agencies, the White House acceded to its request for a federal declaration of major disaster, which opens the door to additional resources to fight the pandemic. .

The mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, last week issued a home stay order, closing businesses and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

“If you have no essential function or cannot maintain a safe social distance, you must stay at home,” said Cantrell on Friday. “Do not look for how the rules do not apply to you. … Stay at home. ”

The city has created a special police team to enforce order and respond to reports of large gatherings. Establishments that do not comply with the order could permanently lose their business license, the New Orleans Police Department said in a tweet.

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Sergio Hernandez, Tina Burnside, Hollie Silverman and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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