Louisiana Department of Health Updates for 3/26/2020

Baton Rouge, La. (March 26, 2020) — The Louisiana Department of Health has updated its website to reflect the latest number of positives and will continue to update its website at noon each day.

As of noon on March 26, the Department reported 510 additional cases since yesterday, bringing the total to 2,305 positive cases. Important to note are the increases in Caddo Parish (additional 22 cases, bringing the total to 115) and Bossier Parish (additional 25 cases, bringing the total to 32), which the Department and Governor’s Office are monitoring closely.

To further combat the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a Stay at Home Order on March 22, directing all Louisiana residents to shelter at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.

Click here for the governor’s official order.

Yesterday, 491 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. Of those, 163 patients required ventilation. Today, 676 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized. Of those, 239 require ventilation. If Louisiana’s growth continues this way and the State is unable to flatten the curve, the New Orleans area could run out of vents by the first week of April.

Nursing homes
The Department of Health has identified COVID-19 clusters in six nursing homes in the state. The five the Department can identify are Chateau D’Ville, Chateau De Notre Dame, Lambeth House, St. James Place and Vista Shores. A cluster is identified as two or more cases that appear to be connected. With the involvement of hospitals and multiple providers and the growth in cases of nursing home residents, going forward the Department will require a lag time in its reporting on specific clusters. The Department aims to be a source of reliable information and needs to be able to allow its epidemiological team time to do its job in notifying providers and patients. Going forward, the Department will report the current number of clusters every day at noon, but will only share names of facilities once the proper notifications have taken place. The Department continues to work with nursing homes to minimize the spread of the illness and protect residents and staff.

The Department reports an additional 18 deaths since yesterday, bringing the total of 83 deaths. 

Guidance for providers
All guidance memos issued can be found on the Department of Health website: http://www.ldh.la.gov/coronavirus.

About the Louisiana Department of Health
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. The Louisiana Department of Health includes the Office of Public Health, Office of Aging & Adult Services, Office of Behavioral Health, Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, and Healthy Louisiana (Medicaid). To learn more, visit http://www.ldh.la.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or our blog.

Congratulations to the NSU Class of 2020!

While out Bear Hunting, the Natchitoches Parish Journal came across a reminder that the Coronavirus has not totally stopped the rhythm of life in our community. Soon to be NSU alumna Ms. Izzy Melhado was with a few friends taking her senior photos on campus. Ms. Melhado hails from Slidell, LA and earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration in forensics as well as a minor in anthropology.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal wishes Ms. Izzy Melhado and her fellow 2020 graduates all the best in their future endeavors. Godspeed as you move on the next part of your life’s adventure!

Don’t fall for Coronavirus scams

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who will prey on good citizens during a time of crisis. We are hearing stories in other cities of scammers taking advantage of people’s fears and anxiety related to Conroavirus.

Therefore, we must all be vigilant to protect ourselves and our family members to Coronavirus Scams.

Here are some examples of potential scams to be aware of and what you can do to protect yourself.

1) Phone solicitations for donations from unfamiliar groups. If someone is claiming to be from a reputable organization is pressuring you to make a donation, that should be a signal to you that they are not legitimate. Do not talk to them or answer any questions. Never give out your social security number or banking information. If you want to make a charitable donation to a charity you are comfortable with, seek them out by visiting their official website.

2) Robocalls – Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to selling protective gear. Hang up the phone immediately. Do not press any buttons.

3) Emails and online ads about Coronavirus vaccines: Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus.

4) Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t. Or, they may be charging exorbitant pricing. We anticipate the supply chains for these products to normalize soon and you will be able to buy these products in Natchitoches Parish from your trusted local businesses.

5) Don’t respond to texts and emails about money from the government. Anyone who tells you they can get you your refund or stimulus money is a scammer. Information regarding financial assistance from the federal government will be communicated to you by mail from the US Treasury.

6) Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the http://ldh.la.gov/Coronavirus/.

If someone has attempted to solicit you as described above, please forward the information to NPDA@10jda.org. We will follow up if needed. If you feel you are a victim of a scam, please call (318) 357-2214.

Thank you for helping us prevent crisis-related scams.
District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington

“…and Bears, Oh My!” The Natchitoches Bear Hunt is On!

The past few days have seen an explosion of the bear and other animal populations in our area. Bears have been spotted by keen eyed hunters of all ages in every part of the city. No need to call out Animal Control however, the Bear Hunt has been organized to help keep youngsters occupied while schools are closed during the Corona situation.

This delightful idea has spread all over the country, and other nations, as people place stuffed bears and other animals in their windows for passing children to “hunt” as they go outside with their parents. It is a great way for the whole family to have fun together while being safe.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal gave it a try and spotted a number of bears as well as a rooster, several Easter bunnies and a few stuffed pigs. The bear hunts are a wonderful example of a community coming together in trying times.

Blessed….or Lucky?

By Reba Phelps

“As luck would have it”, is a phrase that I have mindlessly used many times. Or sometimes, if I am being dramatic I will say, “As fate would have it.” But, either of the two phrases that I choose to use at the given time are not being true to my deep spiritual roots.

The formal definition of luck is; the success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions. Force that brings good fortune or adversity. This, to me, sounds too random to be a good thing.

The key word in that definition that caused me to raise an eyebrow was the word, “apparently”. That word itself gives no guarantee.

With the events that have occurred in my own life, have always had me leaning towards the belief in divine intervention. Divine intervention and luck are horses of two different colors.

I truly believe that Google said it best. “Being blessed means there are people who care about you. Being lucky means you are controlled not cared for. Being blessed means handwork through out the life. Being lucky means you don’t know how to work hard to achieve things”.

Blessings and luck will be always be debated depending upon where your faith lies. I always find it humorous when people post on Facebook about being “lucky”… it takes three milli-seconds for a well-meaning but sassy Christian to come back with a spiritual correction. You are, “blessed”, and not “lucky”.

The more time I spend studying the Bible and growing spiritually I realize that for me, there is no such thing as luck. Luck is the most random thing that can happen to you. You didn’t earn it, you are not favored and pure luck can happen to anyone. In my eyes it is almost admitting that God is not in charge of our daily lives and does not have his hand on every single event that may or may not befall us.

There is no way that luck brought me two of the most healthy and amazing daughters that someone could ask for. There is no way luck would bring me a career that has been completely fulfilling. Then, place me in a position where I can comfortably take care of my daughters as a single mom. Luck doesn’t favor me so deeply that I am still able to give of my time, talent and occasionally, money to the less fortunate or charity.

Luck did not grant my family twenty additional years with my mom after her health took a sharp turn for the worse. Luck didn’t save and redeem my father when he was headed for a life of crime and poverty. Luck didn’t place my dad in a rural church with a small congregation that would support him and his family for 30 years.

Luck doesn’t care that much. Luck is not that invested in you. No ones luck can be that consistent day in and day out.

But….my God is that consistent.

Whether you choose to feel blessed or you choose to feel lucky, you will always get back what you put into this world. If you sow seeds of generosity, joy, peace and happiness you, and your children, will surely receive that back. If you choose to sow seeds of greed, sadness, despair and discontentment then you, and your children, will surely receive that right back, multiplied.

But, as for me and my house we will always choose to be blessed over being lucky.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

Doctors and staff strive to maintain community health in safe ways

During the Coronavirus outbreak, staff at Barnum Internal Medicine at the Natchitoches Medical Specialists building on Keyser Avenue created a drive thru testing area to see patients outside the office. Louisiana is projected to be the next New York when it comes to the current coronavirus outbreak. However, Louisiana’s patient demographic is completely different. Being mostly rural, residents don’t have access to care like in NYC or other large cities.

“We are trying to address these needs,” said Dr. Meg Barnum “We have moved quickly to react and adjust to meet the medical needs of the community in this crisis. I am all about community health.”

One way Dr. Barnum’s office is protecting community health is with Telehealth virtual office visits through Aledade, which started offering a comprehensive telehealth solution on March 20 so physicians across the nation can offer patients timely telehealth visits. In just three days, more than 150 practices implemented the platform.

“We’ve done a few FaceTime appointments already,” said Dr. Barnum. “We’re calling people who are scheduled for visits and utilizing the telehealth platform to keep them at home if possible. We want to minimize the spread of this virus to our healthcare professionals and our patients.”

Clinical Pathology Laboratories, located in the Natchitoches Medical Specialists building, has been instrumental with the COVID 19 swabbing.

This is all totally new territory for those in the health care industry.

“There’s a big difference in how we’re viewing health care now,” said Registered Nurse Dana Cox. LPN TyCianna Caldwell agreed. “It’s scary how fast it’s spreading. Several weeks ago we started to hear about the coronavirus in other parts of the world and then, bam, it’s here.”

The office staff and doctors are also trying to stay up-to-date on all information pertaining to the virus. “I listen to the President’s press conferences and podcasts that discuss breaking news in the world and US,” said Dr. Barnum. “I also tell patients besides not touching their nose and eyes, they should call their pharmacy and get a 90 day supply of their routine meds. They can fill them early. 80% of all generics come from China and India and now India is in a countrywide lockdown.”

A side effect of the outbreak is a lack of supplies, particularly face masks. The office has face shields ordered, but they won’t be in soon enough.

“Through all of this our main goal is helping maintain the health of our community,” said Dr. Barnum.

If you’re exhibiting symptoms and want to schedule a drive up test call 318-352-9880.


A young lady from Powhatan suffered moderate injuries in a single-vehicle crash on La. Hwy 480 north of Campti on Thursday morning according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

This morning at approximately 11:17am, Deputies assigned to the NPSO Patrol Division, Louisiana State Police and Natchitoches Regional Medical Center EMS responded to a single-vehicle crash with injury in the 5300 block of La. Hwy 480 north of Campti, La.

Deputies say 23-year-old Donna Raye Hughes, of Powhatan operating a 2002 Acura was traveling westbound on La. Hwy 480 when she apparently lost control of the vehicle leaving the roadway on the right side striking a culvert, then a utility pole causing the vehicle to overturn in the ditch.

SWEPCO responded to the scene to replace and repair the utility pole and lines.

Hughes was transported from the scene to LSU Health Shreveport with moderate non-life threatening injuries.

Troopers assigned to LSP Troop-E Alexandria worked the crash.

Ponderings with Doug – March 26, 2020

My life is in a box.

I’m not referring to a psychological block or an emotional downturn. I’m speaking literally.

The process of relocating to north Louisiana is in full box packing mode. The worse kind of moves are those where one does not fully pack. There is no moving company in my future for this move. No one to pack the boxes, lift the boxes or transport them. It is complicated further in that we are moving from a spacious house to the camp in Gibsland. The other complicating factor is the house was remodeled for two and now has three. We even downsized the doggy herd. Hazel is very happy in her new home!

A box is packed in Natchitoches and then arrives in Gibsland and the race is on to find a place for that box. It has become a maddening experience. The process has even invaded the office. I have the luxury of tons of bookshelf space at the church here. My new home has limited bookshelf space. Books are stuffed in every nook and cranny of the house. It looks like people are living in a library. I know we live in the world of Google, but I still want to hold a book and mark on the pages of the book. I am hanging on “to the way it used to be.” I have a zillion books that weigh tons. I will move every one of them.

I have checked to see how long the Corona can live on a box. My boxes are not practicing social distancing, but they are in quarantine. I have no place to move them yet. I have attached a picture of the books that will reside at the new church office.

The church in Natchitoches should soon know who the new pastor will be. Our official start date at the new church is July 1. Those of us who are moving this year are wondering if we will move and our new church will be closed for Sunday morning worship still. I used to have that nightmare, now it could be reality. You and I are living through something that is new for all of us.

Each time I walk in my office or into the house here, I am reminded that my life is in a box. We are moving. It is a sad time but an exciting time. My bride is already working toward house breaking me again. It is a painful process of folding things and putting them away. I will make it. The new church has three services. I am used to that. Two of the services happen at the same time. I wonder if I can learn rollerskates?

We are all experiencing the box. We are boxed out of our normal habits. We are confined to our homes. We are not sure how we feel about this virus-imposed box, but it is necessary to protect human life. The virus is about to meet a Louisiana summer and I know who will win that battle. As the writer of Ecclesiastes should have said, “This too shall pass.”

We will unpack, modify some of our social customs and be about life again.
In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy Natchitoches and will pack another box or two. Next week, I’m shoving my computer in a box. This will be my final installment of this article. I have enjoyed it! You have taught me way more than I gave to you. Because of the cross connections between Bienville, Lincoln and Natchitoches Parishes, I can almost guarantee you that I will be back.

Northwestern State adds Schwager as director of strength and conditioning

After spending more than four years at Newberry College, Eric Schwager has joined the Northwestern State Athletic Department as its director of strength and conditioning.

Schwager comes to NSU after serving as the director of strength, conditioning and athletic performance at Newberry College where he helped the Wolves capture the 2016 Southern Atlantic Conference football championship.

At Newberry, Schwager was in charge of a 22-sport program and directly designed and implemented all facets of strength and conditioning for the Wolves’ football, women’s soccer and softball programs while managing a staff of three assistants.

Schwager’s hire is subject to approval of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, of which Northwestern State is a member.

“What I like most about Erik, among his many qualities, is the fact he wants to be here, and he is hitting the ground running,” said Director of Athletics Greg Burke. “His social media posts outlining ‘Stay at Home’ workout concepts reflect the level of dedication he has and will continue to have when our student-athletes return to campus. We all look forward to having Erik and his wife, Ashley, join the NSU Demon family.”

Schwager comes to Natchitoches with a varied background that includes stops at Hartford, where he worked with Major League Baseball first-round selection Sean Newcomb, Limestone College and with the Batavia Muckdogs, a Class A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

He also has experience at Princeton, Michigan State and South Florida and was the owner and director of H.I.T. Advanced Training, LLC.

“There was a sense of a family atmosphere,” Schwager said. “Mr. Burke and everyone has been so helpful. I heard great things about the program and the direction of the school. It intrigued me to come down here.

“(Former director of strength and conditioning Jared Myatt) told me I would love it. He said they have great athletic programs, and his experience here was amazing. Thus far, it’s lived up to the hype even if I’m not on campus. The kids and coaches are great. I can’t wait to get them in the weight room.”

Schwager’s background made him an attractive replacement for Myatt, who is now at Texas Tech.

“The versatility of his background and obvious passion for strength and conditioning will be contagious with our student-athletes in every sport,” said Burke, who noted the committee included a member of the athletic training staff as well as a male and female student-athlete. “He articulated a solid, but flexible, approach to sports performance that made a very positive impression on the hiring committee for this position.”

Schwager is a 2009 graduate of Lock Haven University and earned his master’s from California University of Pennsylvania in 2012.

He is a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified strength and conditioning specialist, a National Speed and Explosion Association certified speed specialist and the NASE state director for Connecticut, a National Academy of Sports Medicine PES certified performance enhancement specialist and is CPR/AED certified.

Capitol Briefing: Gabe Firment

Much has changed in the world since the last edition of the Capitol Briefing ran on March 11, 2020. The first case of the Coronavirus in Louisiana was reported in New Orleans on March 9th, and by March 24th that number had risen to 1,388 confirmed cases with 46 deaths and officials warning that we should expect the virus to continue to spread throughout the state with the possibility that our healthcare system could be stretched to the breaking point by this unprecedented viral outbreak. In response to the rapid growth of the virus Gov. Edwards has issued multiple emergency proclamations, including a “Stay at Home” Order on March 22nd effectively requiring all citizens to shelter in place at home and closing or restricting all non-essential businesses.

As I began contemplating how to cram all of the relevant facts, figures, dates, projections, and potential impacts of the Coronavirus into this short little article, I was struck with my first case of “writer’s block” and was momentarily overwhelmed by the apparent immensity of the crisis we are facing. In my frustration I backed away from the keyboard and looked out my office window to see the morning sun peaking above the treetops and its soft rays beginning to burn through the fog that had drifted in during the dark of night.

The radiance of the sunlight piercing the morning fog also served to burn away the haze that I had allowed to temporarily cloud my mind, and I immediately recalled that there are certain absolute truths that guide us throughout life’s ups and downs. The rising of the sun reminded me of a beautiful passage of scripture from Isaiah 45:6-7, “The words of the prophet Isaiah – that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.

These are uncertain and anxious times we are living in, but we can take comfort in knowing that God is on His throne, and that for those who love God all things work together for good. I have been encouraged and inspired to see how our communities have come together to help one another over the past couple of weeks, and it is my hope and prayer that this spirit of unity will continue once the virus abates and life returns to normal. Please join me in doing what we can to minister to the needs of those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, and together we can emerge from this momentary crisis stronger and more united than ever before.

My office located at 181 Barron Road in Pollock is still open, although we have temporarily decreased our hours to comply with the governor’s recommendations. If you need assistance or have questions about the Coronavirus crisis or any other issue please call the office at (318)765-9606 or call/text my personal cell at (318)201-6769. I am providing COVID-19 updates multiple times per day on my Facebook page @GabeFirment22, and there is a great deal of information available from the state at http://ldh.la.gov/Coronavirus/. Thank you and God Bless!

NSU business professor wins award for research on student-faculty communication

Dr. Eddie Horton, assistant professor in Northwestern State University’s Department of Computer Information Systems, won the Distinguished Paper Award

presented at the Association of Business Information Systems/Federation of Business Disciplines. Horton collected the award at the FBD conference in San Antonio earlier this month prior to social distancing.

“My paper focused on the issues students and faculty have in communication and what are some things that can be done,” he explained. “Essentially, findings are that faculty still prefer face to face and phone conversations where students overwhelmingly prefer email or some other form of asynchronous communication.”

Horton holds the deVargas, LaCaze and Pierson Endowed Professorship of Business at NSU and is vice president of the Association of Business Information Systems.

Current events brought the topic into sharp relevance as NSU will operate with online and alternate coursework delivery for the remainder of the semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Horton said students and faculty will be forced to be more flexible and the university could consider a policy in which students and faculty respond to emails within a specified time period.

“Faculty have to be more diligent in emails and students have to increase other methods of communication,” he said. “In light of all the recent events, I’d like to conduct the study again in about a year, and see if this forced online time changed any perceptions,” Horton said.

NSU’s Computer Information Systems program offers curricula leading to the Bachelor of Science degree in CIS. The program is offered on-campus in Natchitoches, online and in a competency-based format through Electronic and Continuing Education. CIS classes are also streamed to the Leesville/Fort Polk, Alexandria and Barksdale campus each semester.

For information on CIS at Northwestern State, visit https://www.nsula.edu/computer-information-systems/.

Notice of Death – March 26, 2020

McKinner Dixon
July 25, 1943 – March 19, 2020
Arrangements TBA

Samuel Lowdermilk
May 04, 1920 – March 19, 2020
Arrangements TBA

Loy Russell Gaar
April 29, 1925 – March 22, 2020
Service: Saturday, March 28 at 11:30 am at New Hope Cemetery

Louisiana Department of Health Updates for 3/25/2020

Baton Rouge, La. (March 25, 2020) — The Louisiana Department of Health has updated its website to reflect the latest number of positives and will continue to update its website at noon each day.

Case count
As of noon on March 25, the Department reported 407 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,795.

Yesterday, 271 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. Of those, 94 patients required ventilation.

Currently, 491 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized. Of those, 163 patients require ventilation.

Nursing homes
The Department of Health has identified COVID-19 clusters in six nursing homes in the state. A cluster is identified as two or more cases that appear to be connected. With the involvement of hospitals and multiple providers and the growth in cases of nursing home residents, the Department of Health will no longer be reporting where positive cases have been identified. The Department continues to work with nursing homes to minimize the spread of the illness and protect residents and staff.

The Department now reports a total of 65 deaths. 

Following the model of the CDC and many other states, the Department has moved to once daily reporting on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths. The Department is now reporting positive cases and completed tests from the state lab and commercial labs. The Department’s dashboard was updated today at 12 p.m. The next update will be tomorrow at noon and will daily updates will follow at noon seven days a week.

Guidance for providers
All guidance memos issued can be found on the Department of Health website: http://www.ldh.la.gov/coronavirus.
About the Louisiana Department of Health

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. The Louisiana Department of Health includes the Office of Public Health, Office of Aging & Adult Services, Office of Behavioral Health, Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, and Healthy Louisiana (Medicaid). To learn more, visit www.ldh.la.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or our blog.