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11 parishes without COVID-19 cases; officials expect that to change

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BATON ROUGE - As of Thursday afternoon, 53 of Louisiana's 64 parishes reported positive cases of coronavirus. That leaves 11 parishes without any confirmed cases. However, Gov. John Bel Edwards says that shouldn't lead residents to believe cases won't pop up there.

"I am encouraging everyone, no matter who you are or where you live to understand that this coronavirus is in your neighborhood," Edwards said. 

Cases across the state grew by 28 percent from Wednesday to Thursday. Edwards says that shows COVID-19 isn't a regional crisis, but rather a state crisis.

"Nobody should look at this situation and think 'oh this doesn't involve me, this doesn't involve my town, this doesn't involve my parish,'" Edwards said.

One of the 11 parishes without any LDH confirmed cases is West Feliciana Parish. Sheriff-Elect and current Director of Emergency Preparedness, Brian Spillman says the virus has already made its way to the parish.

"We do have confirmation from individuals who have let us know themselves that they have tested positive for the virus," Spillman said. "So we know that there are several. And we're sure those reports will be out in the next few days. We understand that the labs and the reporting capabilities are overwhelmed just like everybody else is."

Spillman says it's just a matter of time before the parish sees confirmed cases.

"Nobody's really sure how long its been here," Spillman said. "We do know over 100 people have been tested here in the parish, and most of those have not gotten those results back."

It all comes down to when those test results come back. As of Thursday, 18,029 tests had been completed between state and commercial labs. The turnaround for commercial labs tends to be a bit longer according to LDH Assistant Secretary Alex Billioux. 

"What we're seeing is that's usually taking about six days for folks to get back," Billioux said. "We have seen that there's some improvement in that number, I guess as they're are being better able to manage their processing, so maybe down to four days."

Typically, tests performed by the state health lab have a faster return time.

"We're still aiming at keeping that 24-36 hour turnaround," Billioux said. "Now that includes having to get from every corner of the state, so sometimes there are extremes there."

In West Feliciana's case, Spillman says some positive patients are hospitalized, while others are in isolation or already recovering. Even though numbers don't show the presence of COVID-19, he wants his resident to keep their guard up.

"What I don't want to happen is for our residents in West Feliciana to get a false sense of security and think maybe we got by with not have an instance of this here," Spillman said. "It's just a matter of time before those reports come in."

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