COVID-19 Update March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Updated March 18, 2020

What are coronaviruses and what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that 
circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve 
and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with recent outbreaks of 
MERS and SARS. The most recently discovered coronavirus is COVID-19, which is an infectious disease 
that was unknown before an outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Is there a special information phone number for people to call with additional questions about 
COVID- 19?

Yes. Louisiana 211 is partnering with the Louisiana Department of Health to ensure citizens access 
to the most current information available for COVID-19. Simply dial 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211.

How many cases of COVID-19 are there in Louisiana?

The Louisiana Department of Health is reporting cases of COVID-19 here. The website is updated 
twice daily, at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. To date, most cases have been clustered in the New Orleans 
area.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with little 
to no symptoms (similar to the common cold) to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can 
include:

•      Fever

•      Cough

•      Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

How would I become infected with COVID-19?

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a 
person infected with the disease coughs or exhales. These droplets can land on objects or surfaces, 
and can then be transmitted from a surface when a person touches it and then touches their eyes, 
nose or mouth. People can also become infected if they breathe in the droplets from the person who 
has COVID-19. This is why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from an infected person.

How can I help protect myself?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. There are simple 
everyday precautions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. These include:

•      Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•      Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

•      Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not 
available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

•      Stay home when you are sick.

•      Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If a tissue is 
not available, cough into your elbow.

•      Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney 
disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.

What is the risk to children?

There is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19. In fact, most confirmed cases 
of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults. Infections in children have been reported, 
including in very young children, but there are no positive cases in children in Louisiana. There 
is an ongoing investigation to determine more about how this outbreak affects children.

Is COVID-19 fatal?

While people have died from COVID-19, the majority of people who have been

diagnosed with COVID-19 do recover. The virus appears to only be severe if it reaches the lungs and 
remains untreated. Most otherwise healthy people can recover from COVID-19 at home.

How do I know to get tested?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, contact your primary 
care physician for guidance. The Department of Health recommends COVID-19 testing for any patient 
with fever, respiratory symptoms and a negative influenza test. After a test, all patients should 
remain isolated until they are cleared by a physician or public health official. If you do not have 
a doctor or if you do not have insurance, contact your nearest community health clinic. This 
website lists all of these clinics: www.lpca.net/main/forpatients/find-a-health-center.

What is Louisiana’s testing capability?

Louisiana has a testing capability of several hundred patients. This number changes constantly as 
test kits are used up and more arrive. The Office of Public Health has ordered additional testing 
kits from the CDC and has been pleased that they arrived in a timely fashion.

Currently, the samples are coming to the OPH from provider referrals and are being accepted based 
on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Commercial testing is now also available, 
and any positive private lab tests are included in the overall number the Department of Health is 
reporting daily.

What should I do if I have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? You 
should self-isolate and limit your contact with other people and you should contact your primary 
care physician for guidance. If you develop a fever and a cough, you should contact your doctor.

Should I go to the ER?

You should go to the ER if you are seriously ill (difficulty breathing, confusion, dehydrated). If 
you are sick with typical cold symptoms, call your primary care doctor.

What is the latest on the state’s response to COVID-19?

On March 13, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a public health emergency in Louisiana. This makes 
certain resources available to state agencies and local governments to assist them in responding to 
outbreaks of COVID-19. That declaration includes protections against price gouging and bans state 
employees from international travel to Level 2 and Level 3 countries as designated by the CDC.

Additionally, the Louisiana Department of Health has ordered health care facilities in the state, 
including hospitals and nursing homes, to restrict visitors to those deemed essential, vital or 
necessary to the care and well-being of patients, clients and residents. On March 17, the 
Department of Health prohibited all routine, non-essential dental visits and procedures for 30 
days.

On March 16, the Governor expanded a proclamation that immediately halts any gathering of more than 
50 people until Monday, April 13. This limitation includes the closure of all K-12 public schools 
statewide effective March 16, a limit to gatherings of no more than 50 as recommended by the 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The proclamation also required all bars, movie 
theaters, fitness centers and casinos to close. Restaurants are restricted drive-thru, pick-up and 
delivery orders only.

Separately on March 13, the governor postponed the April 4 elections until June and July.

Mirroring the federal government’s response, we have moved from a ‘containment’ approach in which 
we focused on travelers to a ‘mitigation’ approach in which we anticipate and plan for 
person-to-person transmission in the community. We are focused on state and local government 
preparedness and are providing support to health care providers, schools, businesses and community 
members to ensure they are adequately prepared to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Does the state’s restricted visitors policy mean no visitors can enter a health care facility?

No. Health care facilities can allow visitors at their discretion, in consultation with families 
and responsible parties. This order also doesn’t apply to situations involving end-of-life care. 
However, no one who meets the definition of a  “restricted person” can be allowed in a health care 
facility.

Can children still get school meals?

Yes, according to the Governor’s recent order. It requires schools to use appropriate social 
distancing measures and continue to provide meals or other essential services with applicable 
staff. Parents should contact their child’s school for specific instructions.

What do I do if the COVID-19 crisis is negatively affecting my mental health?

The Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health has established a hotline, Keep 
Calm Through COVID. The phone line is staffed with compassionate counselors to support Louisianans 
through this difficult time. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with 
information and service coordination, linking callers to mental health and substance abuse 
counseling services. This service is available to the public at no charge. The Keep Calm Through 
COVID hotline number is 1-866- 310-7977. All calls are confidential.

Are you in regular contact with the federal government?

Yes. We are in constant contact with the CDC and HHS. On March 12, the Governor and other state 
officials met with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, M.D. In addition, we have standing calls 
across state health departments and a standing call internally in Louisiana. This is all very 
important so that we all have the latest data, are on the same page and can adapt our plans as 
conditions change.