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Louisiana health officials probe COVID-19 clusters

2 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago Monday, June 22 2020 Jun 22, 2020 June 22, 2020 6:53 AM June 22, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana health regulators have tied at least 100 cases of the new coronavirus to bars near LSU in Baton Rouge and report a new cluster of the illness in the Orleans Parish area.

The state Department of Public Health said Friday that bars in an area near the campus called Tigerland are believed to be a major contributor to the outbreak.

Anyone who visited bars in that area recently should consider themselves exposed and should self-quarantine for 14 days.

People should monitor for symptoms including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea and diarrhea, the health department said.

At least three bars — JL’s Place, Reggie’s and Fred’s — have employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, the businesses’ owners told reporters on Friday.

Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman Mindy Faciane confirmed an outbreak investigation is underway involving JL’s Place and Reggie’s Bar.

Meanwhile, the owner of Fred’s confirms two of his employees have tested positive for the virus. He said each is recovering at home.

In New Orleans, health officials are investigating a new cluster of COVID-19 that is likely linked to a high school graduation party.

“By and large teenagers do well with COVID. On average, they don’t get very sick. That doesn’t mean they always do well. It is still possible, if you’re a young adult, to get very sick with COVID and we have seen cases,” Dr. Eric Kanter, with the Louisiana Department of Health told WVUE-TV.

But, health officials noted that young people also risk unknowingly exposing their parents or grandparents to the disease.

“Those individuals might not do as well with COVID. It’s serious. We are in the middle of a pandemic. It is not a game. An outbreak like we’re seeing now, based on events that happened over the last two weeks, can have a far-reaching and serious ramifications,” Kanter said.

Health care professionals say they’ve seen an increase in positive cases at New Orleans mobile testing sites, indicating a possible increase in community spread. Statewide, numbers are rising too. As of Saturday, the state reported 49,385 cases of the disease with almost 3,000 deaths.

At a news conference Saturday, New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the news emphasizes the need to avoid “super-spreader events.”

Large uncontrolled gatherings, such as a traditional party or a bar, present the highest risk of spreading the illness, she said, and could spark a rise in more cases.

“If we let our guard down or a few bad actors have super-spreader events, it could throw us back,” she said. “We have worked too hard over the last three months ... to go backwards.”

Noting that Sunday is Father’s Day, Avegno said she has not hugged her father in three months.

“I’m going to wish him Happy Father’s Day on Zoom,” she said, “because I care about him.”

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