For Every Positive COVID-19 Case, Five More People Are Likely Infected

Working to increase access to testing across the metro area, the city of New Orleans in partnership with LCMC Health and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), will bring the mobile COVID-19 testing program to Marrero—a locale that has emerged as a coronavirus hotspot in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

Testing will take place from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. (or until a maximum of 250 tests are administered) daily from Tuesday, April 28 through Friday, May 1 at the Marrero Community Center, 1861 Ames Blvd.

Both Marrero and Harvey have large African-American communities, whose residents are comprising a significant number of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson Parish.

In a telephone roundtable with members of the local Black press on Friday (April 24), Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno, took part in a Q&A and provided an update on the city’s COVID-19 response and related issues.

The need for increased testing topped the discussion.

“As of today (April24), we have 6,286 known positive cases of COVID; and as of today, 392 deaths. That’s a lot of cases,” Dr. Avegno says. “And it’s a lot of cases because we have been doing testing at a rate that is greater than almost anywhere in the world. And that is really critical. There are a lot of cities and a lot of states around the country that are not testing like we are, so they don’t know the magnitude of their problem. We estimate that we have tested almost six percent of the Orleans population. That’s a huge number.”

With roughly 391,000 residents in Orleans Parish, six percent comes to just over 23,000 residents that presented with COVID-19 related symptoms at the time of testing. But with many others experiencing only mild symptoms of the virus or no symptoms at all, tens of thousands of others need to be tested, Dr. Avegno says.

Partnering with Jefferson Parish to bring mobile testing there is also an important move, Dr. Avengo says.

“Next week we are partnering with Jefferson Parish and helping them in Marrero, because that is a huge area of need,” she says. “There are many, many disparities there—a neighborhood (where residents) were really not able to access anything around them for testing.”

Both Dr. Avegno and Mayor Cantrell say they believe implementing a stay-at-home order early on, closing non-essential businesses and limiting non-essential activity, has resulted in progress over the past few weeks and a decline in cases.

On Saturday, April 25, the city of New Orleans reported 11 new cases, for a total of 6,297—the lowest number of new cases since March 12.

Mayor Cantrell has extended the city’s stay at home order until May 16. That order remains in place, she says, while insisting that data will drive any decision on whether it gets extended.

The goal now is to get more people tested, Avegno says.

For Every One We Know About,
There Are Likely Five More We Don’t

“What we do know is that for every case that we know about, there are many more cases that we don’t,” Dr. Avegno says. “A good (estimate) is that for all of those 6,000 cases, there are probably five times that number that have been infected with COVID. That is a huge burden for our community. To me, that statistic is the most important one.”

Avegno said data from the drive-thru sites helped to determine the neighborhoods where fewer residents were coming from to get tested and the neighborhoods were residents who were testing positive lived. And that data has helped inform the sites for mobile testing, which began last Tuesday (April 21) at Xavier University to primarily serve residents in and around the HBCU campus, including Hollygrove and Gert Town.

The mobile testing sites have more relaxed criteria for testing than the federally-overseen drive-thru testing sites. To be tested at a mobile site, residents must be at least age 18 and confirm that they have been recently exposed to COVID-19 or recently had symptoms of the virus. More importantly, residents do not have to drive thru for testing–a fact that greatly increases access for those who depend on public transportation and do not have access personal vehicles. Walk-ups will be tested, Avegno says, adding that at the Xavier site, some residents even used their motorized scooters to “roll up” and get tested.

“We have identified five other areas throughout the city and they actually (touch) every council district throughout the city,” Mayor Cantrell said. “And we are not just enough going in and doing testing. We wanted to stand up a comprehensive set of services. For example, they have picked up groceries, masks, and sanitizer. There is access to mental health services if they need it. Residents can be placed on our registry for meals and food. So it’s not just a one-time thing, but we’re setting it up so we can have continuous contact with people in our community, especially those that are the most vulnerable.”

Dates and locations for mobile testing have been set up through early June and include sites in Mid-City, New Orleans East, the Sixth Ward at Orleans and N. Claiborne avenues, Algiers, the Desire neighborhood, the Ninth Ward, then back to a Jefferson Parish location in early June targeting Harvey’s Woodmere neighborhood.

Sites and schedules can change based on need and data, says Avegno. For the most up-to-date schedule, click here.

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