West Feliciana parish president wants bars reopened, says including Angola in parish statistics is skewing positivity rate

W Feliciana parish president frustrated that prison's COVID-19 numbers are affecting positivity rate

WEST FELICIANA PARISH, La. (WAFB) - With East Baton Rouge Parish officials set to allow bars to reopen their doors the last weekend in September, what’s holding back smaller parishes, like West Feliciana, from opening up more of its bars and businesses?

Out of the 758 total coronavirus cases the parish has seen since the pandemic started, 450 of those came from inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is in West Feliciana Parish. And you must count staff at Angola at well.

Angola Prison
Angola Prison (Source: WAFB)

Parish President Kenny Havard believes the Department of Health needs to realize that most of the cases are not actually in the community.

“We’ve done everything that we can do, so don’t penalize us now because it’s running rampant through state facilities,” he said.

Havard wants all his businesses, especially bars, back open full time safely.

“Iberville Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish. People around the state are looking to open up the bars, and here we are with some of the lowest numbers in the state, and we can’t open up. And it’s not fair to the owners of these establishments and stuff,” said Havard.

He says what’s holding back the parish from getting under that 5% positivity rate of COVID tests, really is that the inmates at Angola continue to test positive, driving the numbers up.

Percent positivity of tests
Percent positivity of tests (Source: WAFB)

“Last couple of days I’ve been getting calls from bar owners wanting to know when they’re going to be able to open up, and I have no answer for them because I don’t know when [LDH is] going to stop counting Angola in our numbers. If they quit counting Angola, then [bars] could open up tomorrow,” said Havard.

Kenny Havard provided these numbers to WAFB:

- Number (COVID cases) reported last 30 days: 191

- Number of incarcerated cases reported last 30 days: 185

- Number of non-incarcerated reported last 30 days: 6

- Number of local tests reported by health care facilities last 30 days: 243

- Positivity rate for non-incarcerated last 30 days: 2%

Coronavirus cases in the last 30 days
Coronavirus cases in the last 30 days (Source: WAFB)

West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard says he’s got to get his businesses back up and running so they can generate tax revenue in order to fix more roads and bridges throughout the parish. Without that money, the parish must rely on state funding.

“I have to turn people away every weekend at 11 o' clock, that are still wanting to get out, enjoy other people and get out, and have a few drinks. And it’s frustrating to turn away people for business,” said Glen Baber, owner of The Chill Mill in St. Francisville.

Baber has owned the place for almost two years now.

The Chill Mill has recently transitioned in to operating like a restaurant just to keep the doors open. But they’d like to make the transition back to a bar safely if possible.

the Chill Mill
the Chill Mill (Source: WAFB)

“We’re just ready to open and have our customers back, and stay late, and have a good time,” said Baber.

“It’s time to get back to commerce and get back to work, and let people make their own decisions,” said President Havard.

The governor’s office released the following statement Monday, Sept. 28 about the parish president’s concerns:

“We encourage correctional facilities to continue testing according to CDC recommendations. What we know is that incidence of transmissible viruses inside of congregate sheltering facilities, like prisons and nursing homes, are reflective of the presence of infection within the community. In these particular kinds of settings, wherein people who live there are confined for the most part, the virus gets to these vulnerable populations through people coming into the facility from the community. We are aware of the parish president’s concerns and conversations on this topic are ongoing.”

Click here for COVID-19 data on various detention facilities throughout the state.

A spokesperson with the Louisiana Department of Health did not respond by news time, on whether or not they would consider pulling COVID numbers from prisons from the dashboard in the future.

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