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Vidalia mayor to residents: Please take this virus seriously

VIDALIA — Mayor Buz Craft implored local citizens to heed the warnings about COVID-19 and the devastating effects the virus could have on local families and the entire Miss-Lou.

On the same day, the first three cases of COVID-19 in the parish were reported by the state, Craft asked residents to do what they can to limit the spread of the virus.

Despite the recommendations of President Trump, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and healthcare experts, Craft said Vidalia and surrounding communities all have the same problem.

“People aren’t taking this seriously,” Craft said.

Craft gave an update to local residents Tuesday in a video posted on the Town of Vidalia Facebook page.

Craft said despite recommendations to practice social distancing and to ask people to stay away from crowds, he witnessed several people ignoring the guidelines last weekend on a trip to a local lake with his family.

“We saw party barges filled up partiers,” Craft said.

Seeing people blatantly ignore the warning is concerning, especially when doing so puts lives at risk, Craft said.

“It is really frustrating when you have a loved one or someone close to you to contract this disease who could possibly pass away,” Craft said.

“This virus is not discriminating,” Craft said. “It is something that is going to be after everybody.”

Despite the numbers posted on the Louisiana Department of Health website, Craft said he believes the number of cases is higher.

“What is concerning to me is our first confirmed case was on Saturday this past weekend. It only showed up (Tuesday) on our state’s website,” Craft said. “So guess what? It is much more and much worse than you are seeing on the state websites.”

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported three cases of COVID-19 in Concordia Parish, three days after the Concordia Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness reported the case in a news release Saturday.

Earlier Tuesday, OEP officials reported the parish’s second case of COVID-19.

OEP officials said they received a report from the state of Louisiana on Monday afternoon about the patient who was tested in a hospital in Rapides Parish after being transported by ambulance to the emergency room. The patient continues to be treated at the hospital.

“This is the second case that has been reported for Concordia Parish. The patient is a resident of long-term care facility in Concordia Parish,” Parish OEP Director Timothy Vanier said. “The patient was transported to a local hospital on March 21 with an acute illness not related to the COVID-19 virus. At the time of the transport, the patient was not showing any signs or symptoms of the COVID-19 Virus.”

Vanier said the patient began to show signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 virus on March 25 and was immediately tested. On Monday shortly after noon, the parish officials were notified that the patient’s test results returned positive for COVID-19.

“It is impossible to say for sure, but it appears that the patient did not contract the COVID-19 virus from the long term health care facility nor did the patient expose anyone at the facility,” Vanier said.

Craft said he had a conference call with mayors from Natchez and other neighboring communities to discuss the issues facing the region.

Craft said one of the biggest concerns is the effect the spread of the virus will have on local hospitals.

During the conference call, Craft said Merit Health Natchez CEO Lance Boyd provided an update on the hospital, including the number of COVID-19 patients the hospital is treating.

Craft said the region has a limited supply of equipment, including ventilators. Craft said he has verified with Boyd that Merit Health has 23 ventilators and that several are already in use.

Craft said Boyd told the mayors that he believes the hospital is currently treating 14 patients with COVID-19, although several of those cases have not been confirmed.

Merit Health officials said in statement Tuesday that test results have confirmed seven of their patients have COVID-19.

“To put this number in perspective, we admitted more than 4,000 patients last year and our volumes are fewer at present given our suspension of non-urgent surgical procedures,” the statement said.

Merit Health said the patients with COVID-19 have been separated from other patients in isolation rooms which only a small team of caregivers can access and they remain in our care.

“Our hospital continually works to be prepared for all types of infectious diseases such as measles, flu or new viruses like coronavirus (COVID-19). We have taken proactive steps to prepare for the protection of patients, our caregivers and the community, and monitoring ongoing COVID-19 updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

As for inventory of ventilators and other equipment, the hospital said it is prepared.

“Our inventory of ventilators is sufficient for the patients in our care at this time,” the hospital said.

Like it does for all types of infectious diseases, the hospital said it has taken proactive steps to protect patients, caregivers and the community and it continues to monitoring ongoing COVID-19 updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are reviewing our inventory and protocols regularly as CDC guidance is revised and we continue to work with the MS Department of Health and our local Emergency Management Team,” the hospital said.

Craft said that he is not an alarmist, but that he wanted residents listen to healthcare experts and help flatten the curve by practicing social distancing and staying away from large crowds.

“Please take this seriously and consider where you are going,” Craft said. “Be a humanitarian. Be a good neighbor. Let’s help one another get well and get through this crisis.”