LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Health and government officials continue to sound the alarm about the increase of COVID-19 cases around Acadiana, but Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory remained adamant about not implementing a parishwide mask-wearing mandate.
Guillory held a press conference today along with medical professionals from the state and from local hospitals, giving stark statistics about the increase in cases.
Both Lafayette General and Our Lady of Lourdes hospitals are seeing a higher influx of patients than the previous high in April. This time, while the spread of the disease is being driven by persons under age 30, those who are affected the worst by the disease remain people above age 60 and those with pre-existing conditions like obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Guillory said the under 30 population may feel that since they are not at the highest risks of contracting the disease, they are not as worried about its spread. They are contracting the disease in bars and restaurants and bringing it home to their family members.
Guillory said there are penalties for businesses not in compliance with safety measures, especially face mask usage. Business owners can not only be cited for a $500 fine and up to six months in the parish jail, but they could also face business closure.
Still, Guillory maintained his stance that a mask mandate is not practical as it is “unenforceable.” Guillory said the governor and the leader of every other parish government has agreed with that stance, though cities like Shreveport and New Orleans have mandated mask-wearing among citizens.
“I wish we had the ability to look at this through just one lens,” said Guillory, who noted the economic, practical and medical aspects of the COVID-19 emergency all demand different responses.
Office of Public Health Region 4 Director Tina Stefanski was also pressed on the issue and conceded that a mask mandate would be very helpful, as slowing the spread of the disease would require 80%-90% compliance from the public. At the same time, she said her office is not responsible for the enforcement of a mask mandate.
“I don’t see a way out of this if we don’t follow these guidelines,” said Stefanski.
Meanwhile, officials from Lafayette’s hospitals said they are not overloaded with COVID-19 patients, but the increase in cases has them concerned.
Dr. Amanda Logue with Lafayette General said that her hospital saw a peak of 71 patients in April. Currently, have 106 patients among all their hospital properties, with 22 in intensive care and 12 of ventilators. The average ages of those in the hospital are over 56, while the ICU and ventilator patients are averaging age 65.
Dr. Henry Kaufman with Our Lady of Lourdes said a third of his facility’s patients end up in ICU, though doctors are now reaching a point where they are more knowledgeable about the disease than they were in April.
“We’re in a worse place as far as numbers, but we’re in a better place as far as management and resources,” said Kaufman.
Guillory said Lafayette Consolidated Government is providing free masks for any Lafayette Parish residents. They can be picked up at City Hall as well as Lafayette Public Library drive-thrus.