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Forging a path forward: President Hotard creates Safety Task Force

LAPLACE — Parish President Jaclyn Hotard recently initiated a Safety Task Force to promote and maintain compliance with the Phase One Reopening, which went into effect Friday.

Hotard has authorized the St. John Fire Department, with guidance from the State Fire Marshal and Parish President’s Office, to monitor and ensure local businesses have the resources they need to open safely.

Restaurants, places of worship and many businesses in the community allowed to reopen under the governor’s Phase One order must limit capacity and follow social distancing protocols. As before, employees are required to wear masks when interacting with the public.

While there is no rule mandating masks to be worn in public, Hotard strongly urges customers to “mask up” out of courtesy for the employees they come into contact with.

Each business in the parish will receive a yellow sign to hang in the front window or door to encourage customers to wear a mask upon entering.

“We know not everything is 100 percent. Masks, washing your hands, social distancing are all tools in the toolbox to keep us safe,” Hotard said. “We all have a responsibility to protect each other. As the flier says, my mask protects all of you and your masks protect me.”

St. John Parish has also put together a business guide to facilitate reopening. All business leaders should review the Phase One order at Louisiana.gov, as some businesses such as spas and tattoo parlors are still not permitted to open.

Cain Dufrene, Chief of Operations for the St. John Office of Fire Services, said Safety Task Force consultations will be request-based at this time.

However, residents are welcome to email stjohnstrong@stjohn-la.gov or info.stjohn-la.gov to report any issues with business compliance. In these cases, the fire department staff is authorized to investigate and respond accordingly to correct the situation.

“The safety of our community remains my number one priority,” Hotard said. “Creating the Safety Task Force will allow us to help our businesses comply with Phase One Reopening guidelines and also be able to swiftly and appropriately address any non-compliance.”

Businesses that need assistance should email stjohnstrong@stjohn-la.gov or reference opensafely.gov.

The St. John the Baptist Parish government offices will remain closed to the public as work spaces are modified in anticipation of a future reopening. Departments can still be reached by calling 985-652-9569.

COVID-19 testing is still taking place at the LaPlace Walmart from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. While the drive-thru sites at Ochsner and the Wallace Fire Station have closed, testing is still offered in the Ochsner ER, Belle Terre Urgent Care in LaPlace and Teche Action Clinic in Edgard. The FEMA testing sites in Gramercy and Hahnville remain open, and Hotard said testing will be offered as long as there is a community need.

To date, 3,737 residents have been tested for COVID-19 in St. John.

Hotard said organizations like the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Health Institute are taking a deeper dive to gauge how health education can be implemented into local communities following the recovery phase.

“We need to make sure that our community is as healthy as possible and is educated on being as healthy as possible so if there is any other disease that strikes us, we are better able to defend ourselves,” Hotard said.