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St. John Parish mourns its 1st COVID-19 fatalities

EDGARD — Helen Hilaire was a staple in her family and in her Edgard community. Swift as she could be at 85 years old, she was a ray of light to anyone she came in contact with.

To the sorrow of her family, Hilaire was one of three St. John the Baptist Parish residents to pass away this week from COVID-19 (the coronavirus). The first two deaths were announced Wednesday, and the third was announced Friday afternoon by the Louisiana Department of Health.  According to St. John the Baptist Parish communications, the first two fatalities were residents over the age of 60 who received treatment outside of the parish.

L’OBSERVATEUR had not received information on the identity of the other fatalities as of press time Friday, as names of the deceased are not released to the public by health officials in accordance with HIPAA laws. However, Hilaire’s family wrote a beautiful testament to her life that has been widely shared on social media.

Her family described her as “more vibrant than you could ever imagine a woman of her age to be.” She was the loving matriarch of a large family comprised of eight children, 22 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren.

“She was full of love and life, and she spread joy wherever she traveled,” her family wrote. “Her love knew no boundaries and she used her gift of cooking and baking as a love language.”

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard reminded the community that COVID-19 hits close to home, and it’s important for all to be diligent in slowing the spread of the virus.

“This news deeply saddens me as I know that all impacted by this terrible virus are a loved one or friend to someone,” Hotard said. “Now more than ever, we have a vital role in ensuring our community, especially those at high risk, are safe and healthy. Please keep the victims and their families in your prayers, and for everyone’s sake, stay home, don’t gather and continue taking all necessary measures to flatten the curve.”

“Flatten the curve” is a term used to describe slowing the spread of infection to cover a longer period of time so that cases don’t spike beyond what the health care system can handle.

Sheriff Mike Tregre reminded the public to heed the advice of health officials and local government, stay home and save a life. Staying home could also save a family from the pain of having their loved one die alone.

Hilaire was strong and resilient, much like her St. John the Baptist Parish community. She wasn’t able to have her loved ones by her side in her final hours because of the risk of spreading infection. Being separated at that critical time was devastating for her family, and it remains a harsh reality for all COVID-19 patients and their families.

Cases in the River Parishes have accelerated since the first fatality was recorded in St. James Parish late last week.

As of noon Friday, there were 41confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. John Parish and three deaths. In St. Charles Parish, there were 23 cases and two deaths. Meanwhile, St. James Parish had 40 cases and three deaths.

As of the noon Friday update, Louisiana has a total of 2,746 reported cases and 119 deaths. Currently, 54 of 64 parishes have reported positive cases. This is information is updated daily at noon, and numbers are expected to rise as additional testing is conducted.