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Our Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting regularly to review and implement state and national best practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

St. James Parish Updated Case Count

Since positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) can be publicly reported, we will include updates on this page of our website. At this time, there have been 55 confirmed cases and 3 related deaths in St. James Parish.

WARNING – CDC Health Advisory: Nonprescription Chloroquine Phosphate

Summary
Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death. Clinicians and public health officials should discourage the public from misusing non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate (a chemical used in home aquariums). Clinicians should advise patients and the public that chloroquine, and the related compound hydroxychloroquine, should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare provider as prescribed medications.

Background
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has become aware of two individuals who ingested non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate, a chemical for aquarium use that is commercially available for purchase at stores and through internet websites. One of the individuals died shortly after arrival to the hospital. The second individual was critically ill with severe gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac conduction abnormalities. Upon recovery, the surviving individual reported to the media that they ingested the product to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), after seeing information on the medical use of chloroquine on television. The product in their possession was in powder form inside a 2.2-lb. container and labeled “for Ornamental Fish Use Only”. CDC is also aware of unconfirmed media reports that these commercially available aquarium-use chemicals may be out of stock due to potential increased demand by the public.

At this time, there are no routinely available pharmaceutical products that are FDA-approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific medical conditions, such as malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, these medications are being studied and evaluated as treatment for COVID-19; however, their efficacy to either prevent or treat this infection are unknown. In overdose situations or when used inappropriately, these medications can lead to severe toxicity, including cardiac rhythm disturbances such as prolonged QT, severe hypokalemia, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, coma, and death. Inappropriate uses include taking commercially available non-pharmaceutical preparations, taking chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine sulfate without a prescription, and taking additional doses not recommended by a healthcare provider. Chloroquine phosphate has a narrow therapeutic index—it can be toxic at levels not much higher than those used for treatment—which raises the risk of inadvertent overdose.

Recommendations for the Public
Do not ingest aquarium use products or any other chemicals that contain chloroquine phosphate. These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and can lead to serious health consequences, including death.
Medications like chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate should be taken only when prescribed by and under the supervision of your healthcare provider and always according to the instructions provided.
Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any unexpected symptoms after taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine by contacting your healthcare provider or your poison center (1.800.222.1222).

Hospital Front Entrance Closed Over Weekend 3.27.20

The front hospital lobby entrance will be closed on Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th. Enter through the ER lobby.

PRESS CONFERENCE – 3.23.20

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt, Superintendent of St. James Parish Schools Dr. Ed Cancienne and Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. lead a press conference to update the community on the latest COVID-19 information in the parish. CLICK HERE to view.

JOINT STATEMENT – Case Count 3.23.20 

As of March 23, 2020 at noon, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed 8 positive COVID-19 cases and 1 COVID-19 related death in St. James Parish.

COVID-19 patients are being treated in multiple parishes. Patients being treated at St. James Parish Hospital are in isolation. Those discharged home have been educated how to effectively quarantine. More information about best practices when you are in a household that has been affected by COVID-19 can be found on the hospital’s website sjph.org/coronavirus-information.

“Recent cases have indicated that St. James Parish now has an active community spread,” said Mary Ellen Pratt, St. James Parish Hospital CEO.

“The CDC considers a virus community spread if people have been affected in a certain area and some are unsure how or where they contracted the disease.”

As reported by the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person—typically 6 feet or closer to another person—coughs or sneezes.

“The spread of COVID-19 in our parish is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this moment and encouraging our residents to practice social distancing,” said Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish President.

“Our message is the same, but the urgency of that message is not. We now know that this highly infectious disease is spreading here. Please heed this warning and that of our Governor to stay home with your immediate family only.”

“Make no mistake, our actions today will impact our future.”

For the latest local communications related to COVID-19 visit this web page or the hospital and parish Facebook pages.

The State of Testing – CEO Column by Mary Ellen Pratt 3.21.20

The state and nation are continuously expanding testing resources and protocols in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It is extremely important for the public to understand the testing process, how healthcare providers are determining who should be tested at this time and what each of us can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Testing—Then and Now
Testing for COVID-19 was initially conducted by the state and CDC. After a potential case was deemed necessary for testing by strict state guidelines, the healthcare provider would swab the patient and samples would be couriered to the state lab for testing. Upon a positive test—coined “presumptive positive” the CDC would then run its own quality control test to confirm the case. The process was updated so that state results are now final. Testing approved and conducted by the state takes on average at least two days to produce results.

Most recently, commercial testing—which can be ordered by physicians on a case-by-case ba-sis—became available. Providers follow the same process for swabbing patients and samples are couried to approved commercial labs. Patients that meet criteria for commercial testing take on average at least four days to get results.
Testing Criteria

Both state and commercial tests are limited and only recommended for patients meeting certain criteria. Since most patients contracting the Coronavirus experience only mild symptoms and can be effectively treated from home—reducing the risk of unnecessary exposure to others—tests are conserved for the most vulnerable in our population. Testing criteria is strict and typically ap-proved for patients at high risk of more serious symptoms and needing possible hospitalization.

The Priority for Testing
Testing is priority for the most vulnerable in our population. Most deaths have been in patients 60 or older and many of these patients have had underlying conditions. Examples of patients with the highest risk of complications due to COVID-19 include:

  • People over 60 (risk increases with age)
  • People living in nursing homes
  • People with other health conditions that impair lung or heart function or those with weak-ened immune systems

Call Ahead
If you are not in a high risk category and experiencing mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath we encourage you to call your physician’s office. Your doctor will conduct a phone visit to learn more about your symptoms, review your personal medical history and utilize CDC and state recommendations to determine if a test is recommended. For many patients—especially those whose treatments would not change due to test results, physicians can make recommendations and order medications as needed over the phone.

What can you do?
With or without a test, we have the power to slow the spread of COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Clean your hands often, avoid close contact and stay home if you are sick. According to education from the White House entitled “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” you are encouraged to:

  • Stay home if you feel sick and contact your medical provider
  • If your children are sick keep them home and contact your medical provider
  • If someone in your household tested positive for COVID-19, keep the entire household at home and contact your medical provider
  • If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people
  • If you have a serious underlying condition that can put you at increased risk, stay home and away from other people
  • Avoid social gatherings (mandated at 50 or less, recommended by the president at 10 or less)
  • Avoid discretionary travel
  • Do not visit nursing homes or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance
  • For the latest information on COVID-19 from St. James Parish Hospital, visit this web page often.

COVID-19 Video Conference 3.19.20

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt, Director of Surgical Services and Infection Control Coordinator Terrie Hymel, RN, and Director of Medical Records and Privacy Officer Susan Duhon came together to address community concerns based on the recent report of a positive COVID-19 case in St. James Parish. CLICK HERE to view and/or download the video.

JOINT STATEMENT – Positive Case 3.18.20 

The Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 in
St. James Parish. The patient, falling into the 60+ age bracket, also had underlying health
conditions and passed away at St. James Parish Hospital.

The patient, diagnosed through a state-run test, was isolated and treated following both CDC recommendations and hospital-wide infection control protocols.

“Caring for patients with infectious diseases is something we do on a daily basis. We are
prepared and equipped,” said Mary Ellen Pratt, St. James Parish Hospital CEO.

“Additionally, we enacted our Emergency Management Team which is on call 24/7 to monitor new recommendations, update policies and assist staff as needed to ensure our patients are well cared for, our staff is kept safe and our community is protected.”

The hospital and the St. James Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness have been in constant contact to proactively monitor the situation and develop plans should a case be identified in the parish.

“We feel confident that the decisions made to-date have been in the best interest of our
community. Moving forward, we will make decisions based on the knowledge that a case has been identified locally,” said Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish President.

“We do still want to remind our community that social distancing and staying home are best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Call Ahead Notice to Patients

Per CDC guidelines, we are asking that any patients experiencing certain mild flu-like and respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath call your physician’s office or Urgent Care (225.258.2040) before coming in. We have implemented new policies and procedures to limit exposure.

Family Practice Clinics

It is our typical policy for patients of our family practice clinics to call ahead to schedule appointments. Additionally, we have implemented infection control procedures to intentionally stagger necessary visits as an added measure of protection.

Urgent Care

Our Urgent Care is open from 1pm – 9pm Monday through Friday and 9am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Urgent Care does accept walk-ins, but patients experiencing mild flu-like and respiratory symptoms are asked to call ahead 225.258.2040. We have implemented new procedures for your safety and protection.

Public Dining Room Closure

We are continuing to monitor the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and follow best practices while doing our best to practice social distancing whenever possible as recommended by state and national health agencies.

With this, we are temporarily closing the hospital dining room to the public. In addition, our dietary team will be implementing additional infection control protocols for the safety of patients and staff.

Interim Visitation Policy Effective 3.20.20

Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) onset in the United States, we have been preparing our facility to maintain the safety of our team, patients and community.

Due to the confirmed presumptive cases in Louisiana, we have enacted an emergency task force to plan updates to hospital operations based on the latest guidelines by the CDC and Office of Public Health.

We have implemented a new visitation policy, effective immediately, which limits visitors, restricts the number of entry points into our facility and implements screenings for all visitors and patients.

Effective March 20, 2020 only essential visitors, as outlined below, will be allowed at the hospital, ER and all clinics.

  • Parent/guardian of a minor patient (1 per patient)
  • Caregiver of a patient who cannot consent for them self (1 per patient)
  • Caregiver for someone needing end of life care (1 per patient)

Visitors meeting the criteria above must pass a screening before entry. All permitted visitors and patients must wear a mask at all times. Essential visitors must also be age 18 or over.

Louisiana Department of Health Resources

Have questions or concerns and finding it hard to keep up with ever changing information?

Louisiana citizens can dial 211 24/7 to reach a live specialist to discuss available help and COVID-19 information. Citizens can also text the keyword “LACOVID” to 898-211 to have instant access to the most current information available in our state. CLICK HERE for more information.

Positive COVID-19 Tests Statewide

What is the number of tests being given by healthcare providers for COVID-19 around the state of Louisiana? What percentage have been positive? CLICK HERE for the most up-to-date information about cases in Louisiana.

Home Care Guidance for Patients Testing Positive or being Tested for COVID-19

The state department of health has provided information to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in homes and
residential communities for patients who tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19, but deemed well enough for home treatment. CLICK HERE to review home care guidance.

CDC Resources & Education

What is COVID-19?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practiceexternal icon for naming of new human infectious diseases.

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

CLICK HERE to visit the official COVID-19 CDC website.

Steps to Prevent Illness

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected  person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. CLICK HERE for more info.

  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid close contact

Preparing Your Home 

Practice everyday preventive actions to help reduce your risk of getting sick and remind everyone in your home to do the same. The actions below are especially important for older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions. CLICK HERE for more information.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care (call ahead with symptoms).
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

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