State Rep. Vincent St. Blanc speaks at Wednesday's St. Mary Chamber event at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City. Seated at the table are state Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Gray, and state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin.
Legislator casts doubt on COVID statistics, mask usage
A state lawmaker said at a St Mary Chamber legislative roundup Wednesday that she has doubts about the accuracy of statistics tracking COVID-19 and the usefulness of face coverings.
State Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Gray, said she's been looking to reports about the statistics.
"What I'm discovering is that the numbers being presented to the public are not necessarily accurate," Amedee said during an event at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City, where a handful of local officials and reporters gathered at a half-dozen tables positioned for social distancing.
The Chamber event followed a month of surging COVID-19 numbers that followed the beginning of summertime activities, the lifting of the stay at home in mid-May and the move into Phase 2 economic restrictions in early June. Five months into the pandemic, nearly 37,000 of Louisiana's 84,131 COVID-19 positives have been recorded since June 15, according to number from the Louisiana Office of Public Health. Over the same period, the number of people in hospitals for COVID treatment has more than doubled, rising from fewer than 600 to more than 1,300.
Amedee said she looked into reports that test kits have been found to return positive results even though they haven't actually been used.
And "the number of COVID deaths is not the number of people who died because COVID killed them," Amedee said. "They're COVID-related deaths. There's a lot going on behind that word 'related.'"
Amedee said hospitals have attributed deaths to COVID based on tests that occurred two or three months earlier.
"Basically it's what you probably heard on social media, a scenario where Fred gets hit by a bus and is listed as a COVID death," Amedee said. "I'm finding a lot of those are true."
A Louisiana Department of Health spokesman said an answer to a request for a response is in the works.
Amedee noted that guidance about the effectiveness of masks has changed over time. She offered to provide businesses with signs outlining exemptions to the mask mandate put into effect by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend masks for people who go out into the public.
"Recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms ... and that even those who eventually develop symptoms ...can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms," the CDC website said. "To reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."
The effectiveness of masks figures in the decision to open school next month, too.
State Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, said he believes schools will open this year and that keeping them closed could do more harm than good.
But "always lean toward the science," Allain said. "Personal feelings and all are good but we need to follow the science no matter what."
The Houma Courier reported Wednesday that Terrebonne Parish public schools have delayed the start of the new school year to Sept. 8.
Also Wednesday, Allain, Amedee and state Rep. Vincent St. Blanc, R-Franklin, outlined legislative accomplishments during a regular session interrupted by the pandemic and the special session need to pass a budget.
Allain predicted that a product of state government action last year, the $80 million Bayou Chene Flood Control Project, will soon go to work. The project, paid for with funding through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, is a permanent structure designed to stop back-flooding when the Atchafalaya River runs high and eliminate the need to sink a barge in the bayou, a solution used three times since 2011.
"One year from today," Allain said, "I feel sure Bayou Chene will be in place and protecting parts of five parishes, including St. Mary."
Allain also pointed to funding for resurfacing La. 182 between Franklin and Centerville, a welding training center at the Charenton Canal Industrial Park and a wellness center on the campus of Franklin Foundation Hospital.
"Let's try to make people more well so we don't need the services of the hospital," Allain said. He believes the center can save enough in state Medicaid funding to pay for itself.
The Legislature also passed some tax reform measures, Allain said, including legislation to seek sales taxes on internet purchases to level the playing field for local brick-and-mortar businesses.
Other legislation made it less expensive to appeal Department of Revenue tax rulings and to extend the time for appeals to 30 days. Another bill provides funding for the Revenue Department other than the complete reliance on interest and penalties with which it has been financed..
Amedee talked about legislation that lowered the amount of damages that can send a lawsuit to a jury trial and keeping insurance companies whose only role lawsuits are as insurers from being named as defendants.
Other legislation was conceived to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits over COVID-19 because of items donated for relief, creating a Main Street recovery program for businesses and to make state law clear that the state doesn't sanction or pay for abortions.
St. Blanc, elected last year, finished his first sessions last month. He said he is proud that the state is moving ahead with the Bayou Chene work.
"Now we don't have to worry about that," St. Blanc said. "We'll be ready for high water."
He thanked the voters of District 50 for putting him into office.
"I love what I'm doing," he said.