Percent positivity number misleading, Parish President says

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A 3-D rendering of the coronavirus (Getty Images).

PORT ALLEN, La. (The West Side Journal) – An increase in the COVID-19 percent positivity rate for West Baton Rouge Parish has triggered concerns of an increase in cases, but the numbers do not tell the whole story, Parish President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot said.

The current reported positivity rate for the parish reached 11.80, the highest rate for Region 2, which consists of WBR, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Feliciana.

Two components make the rate misleading, Berthelot said.

“We don’t have a lot of testing sites, so you’re more than likely testing people who have symptoms and already have COVID-19,” he said. “If we have 25 who test positive, it’s a big impact because we have such a small population. In East Baton Rouge, it wouldn’t move the needle because the population is so large,” Berthelot said.

The vaccination will be the key to a full opening, he said. The immunization will also allow the parish government to move past a policy it enacted at the start of the pandemic.

Parish government will not mandate the vaccine for its employees, but it immunization could make the difference on whether an employ requests sick leave due to COVID-19.

The parish would not require its workers to take the shot, but they would have to use their own accumulated sick leave if they test positive for the coronavirus without taking the vaccine.

“We had put a travel ban on local employees last year for conventions and seminars, and if we had someone who needed to be isolated, which means they’re quarantined for 10 days,” Berthelot said. “At the start of the pandemic, instead of charging for sick leave, we were paying employees.”

During the last year, West Baton Rouge Parish has had a total of 2,769 cases and 59 deaths. 

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The West Side Journal, located in Port Allen, Louisiana serves as the official journal of West Baton Rouge Parish. The newspaper’s roots run deep in the West Baton Rouge community, as the earliest dates of publication reach back to the mid-1800s.

The current editor is Breanna Smith, an alumna of Louisiana State University's Manship School of Mass Communication and native of Baton Rouge. Contributing writers to the Journal are members of the West Side community.

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