NEW ORLEANS — The association in charge of the state's nursing homes is urging the public not to visit assisted living communities as the new coronavirus, which causes the potentially deadly COVID-19 disease, spreads across Louisiana.
The Louisiana Nursing Home Association represents more than 250 nursing facilities that house more than 25,000 elderly people and people with disabilities across the state. On Tuesday, in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus to these groups, LNHA officials told people to call, not visit, their loved ones.
"LNHA asks that the public support efforts to protect nursing facility residents by not visiting a nursing facility until further notice in order to limit potential exposure," said Mark Berger, executive director of the LNHA . "Loved ones should call the nursing facility to arrange alternative ways to communicate with residents."
As of Tuesday morning, there were no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in any of the LNHA nursing homes. In total, the state has isolated six people who have been tested and are presumptive positive in Louisiana, all in the New Orleans area, although that number will inevitably grow.
During a New Orleans City Council meeting Tuesday, LNHA officials said they need to do all they can to keeping the illness out of nursing homes, and were in the process of getting supplies like face masks for employees working with the elderly.
"Member facilities have implemented an extensive screening process of visitors, vendors and staff to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to residents. This includes updated infection control procedures, including a focus on proper hand hygiene," Berger's statement read.
As seen in a nursing home in Washington state, where health officials believe the epicenter of coronavirus spread in the U.S. began, people over the age of 65 have the higher fatality rate from COVID-19 than any other group.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Worldwide illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including severe pneumonia that can result in hospitalization or death.
Older people and people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or cancer seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.
People with recent travel to China, or have come in contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have a greater risk for becoming ill.
What to do if you are sick:
If you recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 transmission, and you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the doctor without calling first.
If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Louisiana Department of Health hotline at 1-855-523-2652.
If you are severely ill and you think you need to go to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.
How to Prevent the Spread:
The virus is thought to spread between people in close contact (within 6 feet) and through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wash hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Especially wash hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Stay home if you feel sick to prevent the spread of germs.
Cover your cough with your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.
Treatments for COVID-19:
There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19. People with coronavirus should be treated with supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
Some severe cases require going to the hospital, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.