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Vehicles line up for COVID-19 testing at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center site Tuesday December 29, 2020, in Gonzales, La.

Ascension Parish government has begun offering testing for the coronavirus this month at community parks and plans a mass vaccination day next week at a west bank hospital, parish officials said Wednesday.

The two steps are part of a parish effort to bring testing and vaccinations closer to the community and boost usage of the services, officials added.

The local government, along with the state Department of Health and Louisiana National Guard, has offered testing at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales for months, but parish officials said testing numbers have declined in recent weeks.

“The previous testing site at Lamar-Dixon was not as convenient for many of our citizens,” Parish President Clint Cointment said in a statement. "We feel by going out to the parks, which are more accessible to residential areas, we can reach more people in our efforts to get this pandemic behind us.”

Martin McConnell, parish government spokesman, said the mass vaccination day for eligible residents will be Tuesday at Prevost Memorial Hospital in Donaldsonville from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The free testing, which is coordinated by the parish Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security and the National Guard, began Tuesday at Stevens Park, 43230 Cannon Road, St. Amant and will last through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The locations will shift from Stevens Park to other parks the rest of the month. The locations and times are the following:

• Monday to Friday, March 15 to 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Frank Sotile Pavilion, 2162 Thibaut Drive, Donaldsonville.

• Monday to Friday, March 22 to 26, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Jackie Robinson Park, 35638 Coco Road, Geismar.

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• Monday to Friday, March 29 to April 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Dutchtown Library, 13278 La. 73, Dutchtown.

Additional testing locations and dates will be announced when they are made available.

The vaccinations offered at Prevost will be Moderna shots and the follow-up, second shot will be offered April 13 at the hospital. Preregistration is required. Go to:

"This is all part of the same strategy. Rather than make the community come here, let's go bring it out to the community. We want make it as easy as possible for them to get tested and get vaccinated," McConnell added.

The Baton Rouge region has seen the rolling average of new cases drop off sharply between the peak of the third surge in early January and February. February. Case counts have plateaued at much lower levels.

In Ascension, case numbers fell by 90% in that period, raw case data for the parish show. Since then, new cases have plateaued around a daily average of 10 to 12 per day.

Deaths have also slowed, and the positivity rate was just below 5% for two most recently available consecutive weeks, both positive markers.

Prevost is located at 301 Memorial Drive, Donaldsonville. 

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