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Quick hits: Louisiana news briefs for July 13

A worker in protective suit and mask talks to a driver who has been through the COVID-19 drive-through testing at West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, La., on Friday, March 20, 2020. The two women in blue T-shirts also are masked.

Frontline workers can apply for COVID-19 hazard payments Wednesday

Louisiana workers can begin applying Wednesday for $250 hazard payments related to essential work performed during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The program is open to workers who make $50,000 or less last year and worked at least 200 hours responding to or mitigating the COVID-19 crisis from March 22 through May 14, interacting with the public while other people were encouraged to stay home. Eligible workers include nurses, first responders, grocery store employees and many more.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue plans to accept applications through Oct. 31, though only $50 million is available and the program may run out of money much sooner. More information is available at FrontlineWorkers.la.gov.

LABI launches “judicial transparency” website

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry on Monday launched LouisianaJudiciary.com, which it describes as an effort to promote transparency in the court system.

“Campaign signs for candidates seeking judicial seats are already popping up in communities across Louisiana, leaving residents scratching their heads as to just who their elected judges are, who is actually running against whom and how each level of court overlaps or interacts,” said Lauren Chauvin, Director of LABI’s Judicial Program. “This is an essential third branch of government that we feel warrants the same level of transparency and public access as our legislative and executive branches.

The website includes interactive maps presenting information about the Louisiana Supreme Court, appellate courts and local judicial districts, allowing users to read judges’ biographies, learn when terms end and see where lines are drawn. A second phase is in development that will provide more detailed maps of election sections, public records, a searchable database of court records for select jurisdictions and analysis of how the courts operate, LABI says.

Officials announce “smart port” initiative

Officials with the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana Economic Development, and The Water Institute of the Gulf on Monday signed an agreement to cooperate in creating a tool to forecast shoaling, in which sediment fills in deep draft ship berths, at ports along the Mississippi River.

The new forecasting tool will use near real-time data provided by existing sensors aboard tugboats and other vessels to provide information about Mississippi River sediment movement, officials said. The goal is to reduce financial and operational uncertainty related to downtime at berths where shoaling prohibits vessel access as well and predict future dredging needs.

“Beginning with New Orleans, we plan to make our ports safer and more efficient through a digitally connected infrastructure,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Smart ports mean more efficient operations for all businesses, and they also provide security against virtual and physical threats.”

Louisiana gets new shipment of drug that has shown promise in treating COVID-19

The federal government has sent Louisiana 60 cases of remdesivir, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced Sunday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients with remdesivir. Gov. John Bel Edwards said last week that some hospitals in the state are running low on the drug.

“We’re thankful for this supply of remdesivir and for the lives it will help,” Kennedy said.

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