EXTENSION BRIEF: Providing Educational Support During a Public Health Emergency

Evelyn Watts, Xu, Wenqing

Evelyn Watts and Wenqing “Wennie” Xu

In March 2020, after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. Restaurant dining rooms closed, and retail stores remained some of the only public spaces open to customers in the state. LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant food safety experts received calls from extension agents across the state asking how to advise residents to shop for groceries and pick up to-go orders safely, and food processors contacted these experts to learn how to work safely during the public health emergency.

AgCenter and Sea Grant agents realized that misinformation was being spread about the virus and the ways it can be transmitted. To educate the public, they created a series of extension materials to assist different sectors of the community to respond to public health concerns associated with COVID-19. The materials created included a series of fact sheets on a variety of issues, including food delivery and take-out, fishing safety information and seafood processing plants. In addition, a series of six posters was developed to create awareness of social distancing among store employees and customers.

Two fact sheets were created for the seafood industry. “Fishing Safety and Information During a Public Health Emergency” highlights the health of people working on the boats, the proper use of disinfectants, and considerations when fishers sell their catch directly to consumers. The other fact sheet is “Public Health Emergency Response for Seafood Processing Plants During COVID-19,” which provides guidance on the risks associated for processing plants during the pandemic, how to identify high-risk areas, and how to control and prevent the transmission of the virus among employees and visitors. The goal is to minimize person-to-person contact in the plant and during processing.

To help create awareness on the control and prevention of the transmission of COVID-19, graphics and videos are available on the LSU AgCenter website for sharing through social media. Go to Stop COVID-19: Our Health Is in Your Hands.

These materials have been shared through social media, with more than 45,000 online users commenting, liking or sharing the materials on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The fact sheets appeared on AgCenter and Sea Grant websites, accumulating 14,459 unique page views, and more than 1,200 AgCenter and Sea Grant email list subscribers received the resources in emails.

The New Orleans City Council printed copies of the materials to distribute with packages of food from local food banks, and the City Council also posted the fact sheets on social media sites and distributed them through email. The seafood processor-focused fact sheets made their way across the world to the Association of International Seafood Professionals, which shared the materials on Facebook. In addition, field agents and specialists have engaged with different members in the seafood industry to provide guidance on how to handle COVID-19-related issues.

Evelyn Watts is an assistant professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and an extension seafood specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant; Wenqing “Wennie” Xu is an assistant professor and extension food safety specialist in the school.

(This article appears in the winter 2021 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

Poster encouraging people to wash hands, stay 6 feet apart, wear masks.

This poster along with other graphics and materials are available on the LSU AgCenter website to help people know and follow the rules for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

4/6/2021 1:30:32 PM
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