LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (WAFB) - For nearly six weeks, Livingston Parish has been shut down due to the coronavirus, making it one of the first parishes to do so. As of May 4, all Livingston Parish offices are back open.
“Feels great. Routines are back. It’s better now. I have things to do,” said Samantha Bellue.
Bellue is a receptionist and says just putting on makeup, dress clothes, and waking up to an alarm bring a sense of normalcy.
“It makes you feel like you have accomplished something during the day. You are able to help and serve for what you are made to do,” said Bellue.
Professionally, that means working for Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks. She, along with all parish employees, returned to work Monday with several new restrictions:
- Maintain a 6-foot distance between other people
- No more than four people inside the permitting, planning, and environmental offices. Anyone with children must leave them in the hallway.
- Must wear a mask before entering the building
“We’re hoping they bring their masks and that they wear their mask coming in. If not, we will provide them with a mask. I have to be careful with that because I don’t have a lot of extras because we have given out just about everything we had,” said Ricks.
Plus, there are several safety measures in place for employees. Aside from masks, Plexiglass is up in the permitting, planning, and environmental offices. Crews are constantly going around the entire building cleaning and wiping down all door handles.
Ricks says in their first day back open, they were busier than he expected.
“We did roughly 70 permits yesterday, so that tells you about how busy they were and then in planning, they saw between 15 and 18, 19 people for addressing and things they needed to do,” said Ricks. “But everything went great. There were no issues. Everybody was real respectful. They wore their masks. They maintained the 6-foot distance and we kept it to less than ten people in an area.”
To date, 247 people have contracted COVID-19 in Livingston Parish and 18 people lost their lives to the virus, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). Ricks says he took those cases into consideration before making the decision to reopen.
“Though our numbers were great, the people are getting restless. They are ready to get out. You can go by Clegg’s, you can go by Stine’s, Home Depot, Rouses, Walmart, the bigger chains that are open and you see the parking lots are packed. I know these people don’t go shopping every day. They are just ready to get out and do something, so we just thought that okay, from a government standpoint, they are paying taxes. There are services we have got to meet, let’s get back to work,” said Ricks.
“I’m just glad to be back. Glad to be back to a new normal, not necessarily the old normal, but a new normal. Things have changed, things will continue to be a little different, and I think it is just an adjustment we all have to get used to,” said Bellue.
It’s a sentiment shared by many, but they’re thankful there’s some form of normal to get back to.
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