"Stay calm, stay safe, stay home," said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter at a Sunday news conference.
The conference followed Gov. John Bel Edwards' announcement Sunday afternoon that the state is officially under a "Stay-At-Home" order, effective at 5 p.m. today, March 23, until April 12. The date is always subject to change following new coronavirus statistics.
Two weeks ago today there were no positive identified cases, while a week ago there were officially 98 cases in 10 parishes.
The number of coronavirus cases escalated over the weekend, and the Department of Health confirmed 837 cases in 26 parishes and 20 deaths across Louisiana as of Sunday evening. Calcasieu and Beauregard parishes have a total of five cases between them and zero deaths. This rate of acceleration makes Louisiana the lead in the world per capita.
This "Stay-at-Home" order demands that all state buildings are closed to the public, although essential state functions will continue. Gatherings of 10 or more people will be postponed or cancelled, applying to gatherings in a single space at the same time where individuals will be in close proximity. All individuals are directed to stay home unless performing an essential activity such as obtaining food, medicine or other similar goods, obtaining medical care and treatment, going to the workplace to perform a job function necessary to provide essential services, going outdoors, caring for family members, or going to and from a place of worship.
Early learning centers and child care facilities will continue to operate while adhering to guidance issued by the Louisiana Department of Education and Office of Public Health.
All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, will be closed as well as all personal care and grooming businesses and all malls. A more thorough list of the order can be found at gov.louisiana.gov.
Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, Region 5 Office of Public Health director, reminded individuals the website containing updates on the statistics of the cornonavirus in Louisiana will be limited to one update at noon daily.
"We do expect that there will be more cases in Southwest Louisiana going forward," Cavanaugh said. She reminded people that it can take up to 14 days for someone who has the virus to show symptoms.
Dr. Manley Jordan, Lake Charles Memorial Health System Chief Medical Officer, said, "We can certainly affect the outcome for our five-parish area. I can't emphasize the importance of people staying home. The important thing is for people to stay at home, I can't emphasize that enough."
At the moment, Jordan said hospitals are in "good shape" and can continue to be if the regulations are followed. Those with mild symptoms are asked to try to communicate over the phone and call their doctor.
"You're the most important partner of this team, and we need you right now," Jordan said.
Dick Gremillion, Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director, pleaded for others to follow the new stay-at-Home order and said those in the industry are exempt.
Police Jury President Tony Guillory spoke on the importance of the community's cooperation.
"Please take this seriously and stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Do it for the safety of yourself, do it for the safety of your family and friends, and do it for the safety of your community. We're counting on everyone to help beat this virus," Guillory said.
Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso said there is no plan for a curfew or road closures as of now. He said the crime rate has not escalated and urged individuals to do their part and stay calm in this time of crisis.
"I can assure everyone that the governor's action today did not come lightly. They came with a lot of deliberation, they came with a lot of thought and a lot of care and especially, they came with a lot of professional advise from health care professionals, from federal government professionals, from a whole lot of other perspectives out there that made this necessary," said state Sen. Ronnie Johns, "I think the most important thing that we want to reassure our public that this is not marshal law. This is a stay at home, stay in place approach to us getting out ahead of this virus."