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Acadiana leaders urge public to embrace COVID-19 safety measures

Katherine Manuel, Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Published 5:22 p.m. CT July 20, 2020 | Updated 5:30 p.m. CT July 20, 2020


Acadiana community and business leaders urged residents Monday to embrace safety measures like wearing a face mask as a way to take care of neighbors and friends, and to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We ask that you pledge and do your part in protecting our community and keeping our businesses and schools open,” said Robert Eddy, managing partner at Pinnacle Group Insurance and Financial Services.

Eddy joined Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie, Acadian Ambulance Chief Executive Richard Zushlag and others to promote a community campaign at the university.

The gathering of leaders comes after Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory and other leaders in the region declined to issue a mandate requiring residents to wear face masks in public.

Guillory, however, embraced the mandate eventually ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards, and has encouraged residents to voluntarily wear masks and take other precautions to reduce the virus’ spread.

Louisiana is averaging more than 2,000 new confirmed infections each day over the past week and cases exceeded 90,000 statewide Sunday. Louisiana is considered a “red zone” in the nation by the White House for increasing cases and the percentage of positives among tests.

Eddy urged residents to join the community leaders who spoke to take the pledge presented by Acadiana Safe, which promotes “common sense protective measures” such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing.

Deshotel, who earlier urged residents to follow the practices and to wear masks, opened the event with a prayer following Eddy.

Savoie said the measures promoted by the Acadiana Safe initiative will save lives.

“Here at the university, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Savoie said. “So we have more than 22,000 motivations for supporting this campaign and wanting it to succeed.”

Zuschlag said about 40% of those who contract COVID-19 do not know they have it and spread it by accident. He said for Lafayette businesses to open up again, the community needs to wear masks.

Zuschlag said his Acadian Ambulance responders have transported patients miles from Acadiana for surgeries because local hospitals do not have enough beds to care for all the patients who need help with the virus and other routine medical issues.

Our Savior’s Church Pastor and former New Orleans Saints player Chris Reis shared his experience with the Saints in the Superbowl and compared Saints practices to safety practices preventing COVID-19.

Phyllis Coleman Mouton of Women of Wisdom said it is important for safety information and practices to be spread throughout Lafayette. Mouton emphasized the “consistent surge” of COVID-19 in African-American communities in Acadiana.

“Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some of us African-Americans at increased risk of getting COVID-19,” Mouton said.

Founder and Executive Chairman of Shumacher Clinical Partners Dr. William Shumacher said after the event that he realized if the Lafayette community did not “bend the curve,” then the city would “be in trouble.”

“I felt like the only way we could make some real movement here was through a grassroots effort, so that’s what this is about,” said Shumacher, who joined other leaders at the event to promote the campaign. “It’s trying to engage people in their responsibility to do the right thing for their community.”

Others who attended included United Way of Acadiana President and CEO Carlee Alm-LaBar, One Acadiana CEO and President Troy Wayman, and Dr. Deiadra Garrett, representing Lourdes Medical Group.

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