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St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars Provivides an Update on Mask Mandate and Issues Statement on COVID-19 Concerns

Photo courtesy Eric Gay/ AP/ CNN

"I have on this date mandated that that masks be worn in all parish-owned and parish-operated buildings where social distancing cannot be maintained since there is no way to determine who has and has not been fully vaccinated."

Posted: Jul 27, 2021 3:25 PM

Louisiana has seen a record high in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations prompting  St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars to issue the following statement: 

I have not commented on COVID-19 in quite some time since information has been readily available and well publicized. However, in view of the current situation with an alarming and disturbing increase in COVID-19 cases, I feel constrained to make the following observations.

The hospitalizations reported for Region 4 for this date is 200. One week ago, the total number was 119, and 14 days ago (July 13, 2021) the number was only 78. This concerning trend should be evaluated against the total number of hospitalizations on July 22, 2020, when the Region 4 hospitalizations peaked at 304. If the increases continue at the current pace, we will exceed the peak number in less than a week. Our healthcare system is at a critical stage. Indeed, hospitals throughout the State have already started to adopt measures such as canceling elective surgeries and refusing transfers. Healthcare professionals lament over the imminent burdens under which they will be compelled to work because of the rising cases and hospitalizations. The prospects are concerning.

On April 28, 2021, the day after the Governor rescinded the mask mandate, I commented:

Moreover, the total of new cases remains relatively low and COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to be below the numbers we were experiencing last year. More importantly, those who wish to be protected can receive one of three vaccines which are readily available. The efficacy of two vaccine options is over 95% and is 65%-70% for the third option.

LOUISIANA HITS RECORD COVID-19 CASES, HOSPITALIZATIONS

I am nonetheless concerned about the fact that our new cases are still on an upward trend albeit at a low rate. The same pattern holds true for our hospitalization rates as regards COVID-19. Even more disconcerting is the fact that only 32% of our state has initiated the vaccine (26% fully vaccinated) compared to the national average of 42%. The vaccination rate for St. Martin Parish is only 21.8% (17.5% fully vaccinated). Only 12 Parishes in the state have a lower percentage of its residents vaccinated. Furthermore, I remain concerned about the variants which infectious disease experts advise are becoming more prevalent. I pray that our vaccinations increase at a faster pace than the evolving variants.

Since that time, the vaccination rate for the State of Louisiana and our region remains at one of the lowest rates in the country. Meanwhile, on a per capita basis, Louisiana has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The State has been classified by the White House as a “state of concern” because of its rapid case growth and insufficient vaccination rate.

The foregoing bleak picture can be offset by the fact that vaccinations are widely available and have proven to be effective against COVID-19 including the Delta Variant. Even in those instances where the fully vaccinated have become infected, the virus has not been as virulent. The bottom line which cannot be legitimately refuted is that the vaccine is an effective tool in ending the Pandemic. For whatever reasons, we have not availed ourselves of this opportunity.

Therefore, I urge everyone who has not elected to receive the vaccine, to reconsider their decision. The consensus of the science/medical community predominates in favor of taking the vaccine. Indeed, vaccinations afford everyone the opportunity to exercise control over the virus as opposed to COVID-19 continuing to control us.

I have on this date mandated that that masks be worn in all parish-owned and parish-operated buildings where social distancing cannot be maintained since there is no way to determine who has and has not been fully vaccinated. This is the guidance recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health and CDC, which makes perfect sense to me. I wish to encourage everyone to feel safe and uninhibited in visiting our parish facilities. This requirement does not apply to outdoor activities at our parks and related recreational facilities where no mask need be worn. Also, I will not require that events at our various community centers be subject to any mask requirement; rather, I will leave the organization or person(s) renting the various facilities to make those decisions.

I attach to this message a list of the places where one can receive the vaccine and as such re-urge my entreaty that everyone consider taking the vaccine.

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