Southwest Louisiana's five-parish area had 442 newly identified positive cases of COVID-19 over the past seven days. It was the highest week-long total since the pandemic began, local officials said Thursday.
Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, Region 5 Office of Public Health director, said 89 of those new cases were discovered in the past 24 hours. She said the increase in positive cases isn't just a result of more tests being performed.
"It is very clear to me that this is due to a true increasing number of COVID cases," Cavanaugh said.
Earlier this week, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the Phase 2 guidelines for businesses would remain in effect for another 28 days. This, he said, was largely because of the rising number of new positive COVID-19 cases statewide.
Cavanaugh urged residents, especially teens and young adults, when out in public places to remain cautious and follow recommended precautions, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing.
Residents let their guard down as Phase 2 restrictions allowed for larger indoor seating capacities and loosened restrictions, Cavanaugh said. Several area businesses recently announced they would close temporarily to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19.
"This virus is here ... and impacting our workplaces, which is a big deal," she said. "We have to reduce the number of contacts. If we don't do those things, our workforce, businesses and health care workers are going to suffer."
While most young adults ages 18-29 may not experience severe symptoms from COVID-19, Cavanaugh said the bigger concern lies with those who have the virus potentially spreading it to those with chronic health conditions, or the elderly.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter also encouraged residents to follow recommended safety precautions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. He urged residents to consider their own health, along with the safety of family, coworkers and local businesses.
"This is not the time to throw caution to the wind," he said.
Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso said the department currently has the most employees out sick than ever before, and the most on quarantine since the pandemic began. However, he said it has not impacted law enforcement or correctional services.
"The public will never know that we're going through this because we're going to adjust manpower," Mancuso said. "We are operating 100 percent without any interruptions."
Mancuso said the department is working to keep Calcasieu Correctional Center inmates safe.
"We don't want our inmates sick," he said. Dick Gremillion, Calcasieu Office of Emergency
Preparedness director, said 1,119 people have been tested since June 1, with 730 Calcasieu residents tested this week. He said 274 tests were administered at the Civic Center on Thursday.
Tom Hoefer, Calcasieu Parish communications director, said the parish and city of Lake Charles are working to develop a TV ad campaign to encourage residents, especially the youth, to wear masks. He said people are encouraged to change their social media profile picture to one in which they are wearing a mask and use the hashtag #showusyourmaskswla.