Donaldsonville community faces coronavirus challenges

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief

Donaldsonville, like communities around the nation and the world, has risen in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Last week, challenges continued to mount as more parishes across Louisiana announced new cases and deaths.

Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press conference Sunday evening to announce a statewide “stay at home” order beginning Monday, March 23 at 5 p.m.

I am implementing this measure to help prevent you from becoming infected or infecting someone else. People can leave their homes to do essential things like buying groceries or food, pick up medicine or go to work only if their job is essential,” Edwards said..

As of Sunday, 837 cases of coronavirus were reported in the state. Seventeen were in Ascension Parish. Twenty deaths were recorded at the time.

The complete closure order is available

Local officials have been providing updates to the public and media at Donaldsonville City Hall on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m. Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan and other officials are also broadcasting updates via 1590 KKAY and KBRS 106.9 FM on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9 a.m.

This week, city leaders decided to add an update Monday due to the influx of new information.

Speaking Thursday, Sullivan said he continues to work diligently with the Ascension Parish Unified Command Team, which is comprised of departments throughout the parish.

We are assessing the situation daily and following all state and federal recommendations to prevent spreading the virus,” Sullivan said.

Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office Westside Captain Darryl Smith said Sheriff Bobby Webre has implemented several preventative measures for the staff, including use of sanitizer, gloves, and masks. 

Smith said citizens can pay tickets, obtain reports, and pay taxes through the office web site,

APSO’s Public Information Officer Allison Hudson has been posting updates through social media and sharing safety tips.

Citizens can call 225-621-8300 for non-emergency matters.

Newly-appointed Fire Chief Adam Gautreaux has hit the ground running since taking the reins of the department.

Gautreaux said firefighters are utilizing personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing of at least six feet.

On Tuesday, the fire station was closed to non-essential personnel, he said.

Lee Melancon, Director of Community and Economic Development, said City Hall has temporarily stopped accepting Cox and Entergy payments. The outdoor drop box can be used for paying city utility bills.

Residents can also pay online with a registered account

We will not disconnect anyone during this time,” he said.

Melancon also plans to reach out to all businesses with occupational licenses on file in the city.

Councilman Reginald Francis Sr. said the Baton Rouge Food Bank and BASF have teamed up to hand out backpacks with non-perishable food during the Ascension Parish Schools’ food service times. Backpacks were limited to one per vehicle or pedestrian.

Councilman Brent Landry encouraged residents to continue to support local businesses.

He said technology has allowed everyone to minimize their interactions, yet continue to conduct business.

Councilman Lauthaught Delaney Sr. also provided a positive outlook.

It’s important to check on one another,” Delaney said. “Check on the elderly, and check on your neighbors. We will get through this together.”

Sullivan said all local events are cancelled until at least April 13.

Prevost Memorial Hospital has been in the process of setting up a drive-through testing site, he added. Patients will need a doctor’s order to be tested.

I know that it’s very difficult with the culture that we have here in south Louisiana,” the Mayor said. “We believe in greeting people with a handshake and a hug, but we have to refrain from doing that at this time. This is a time for all of us to pull together.”

In other local matters related to coronavirus:

  • City of Donaldsonville council meetings have been cancelled until further notice. 
  • Ascension Parish Council Chairwoman Teri Casso announced all meetings of the Ascension Parish Council and its committees, starting with the March 19 Council meeting, are cancelled until further notice. 
  • Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment has announced the Customer Service Center for Parish Utilities of Ascension and Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 1, as well as West Ascension Drainage, are closed to public access. 
  • All requests for service can be made through the Citizens Service Center, 225-450-1200. 
  • Effective March 13, Entergy Louisiana has suspended electric and natural gas service disconnections for a minimum of 30 days. Customers requiring payment arrangements can call 1-800-ENTERGY (800-368-3749).
  • Ascension Parish Schools’ "grab and go" student meals at Donaldsonville High School and the Waguespack Center (former West Ascension School) have been suspended in order to assess the safety of the staff, according to a School Board release.