KVCL Local News

The Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed five additional cases of Zika virus during the past week. Each patient had travelled to a region with ongoing Zika transmission and sought medical care in Louisiana after returning, where tests confirmed the viral infection. This brings the total to 14 cases of travel-associated Zika confirmed in Louisiana. There have been no confirmed cases of local transmission within the state. After travelling to an area with ongoing Zika transmission, the patients returned to Louisiana and began to show symptoms of an illness, prompting them to seek treatment. Each patient and their health care provider have been notified of the Zika-positive result. The Department of Health has reported the new cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consumers could no longer receive multiple calls per day from debt collectors and would have more ability to dispute their bills under proposals released Thursday to overhaul the multibillion-dollar debt collection industry. The new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would also require collectors to have more documentation to prove a debt is owed, and initiate a 30-day waiting period for loans tied to someone who has recently died — halting all collection attempts from a spouse or child during that time. Regulators estimate roughly 70 million Americans are contacted by debt collectors each year, and more Americans submit complaints to state and federal agencies about unfair or deceptive practices than any other part of the consumer financial system. These would be the biggest changes to the industry since Congress passed the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act nearly 40 years ago.

Governor John Bel Edwards' office has decided not to lay off any employees. Earlier this month, some employees in the governor's office had received layoff notifications. But on Tuesday, Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said a different approach has been taken to reduce costs to cope with a $703,000 cut for the budget year that began July 1. Instead, seven vacant jobs will not be filled. Contracts for legal and technology services are being reduced, and supplies and other expenses will be lessened instead of sending out pink slips. The governor's office said that existing staff will take on greater responsibilities, but services performed by the office will not be reduced. Agencies across state government have experienced cuts to balance this year's budget.

Louisiana's sales tax holidays have been viewed as inefficient, according to a tax reform group. Months after Baton Rouge lawmakers eliminated or cut back Louisiana's state tax holidays, the Tax Foundation released a report Monday criticizing the practice as inefficient and one that shifts the timing of consumer purchases rather than stimulating the economy. 17 states have a sales tax holiday on the books for this year. The holidays offer a brief period in which selected goods are exempted from state, and sometimes local taxes. Across the U.S., the number of states holding the tax holidays is down from a peak of 19 states in 2010, according to the report. Most sales tax holidays exempt taxes on specific goods like back-to-school supplies, clothing, computers and hurricane preparedness supplies. For the next two years, hurricane preparation purchases will be discounted 2 percent instead of 5 percent, and will return to a full exemption by 2019. Also, the state's tax holiday for general purchases in August and September's firearms and ammunition tax holiday will be discounted 2 percent in 2016 and 2017.

One of the nation’s top health insurers is pulling out of ObamaCare plans in all but a handful of states after a year of nearly $1 billion in losses. Humana plans to exit nearly half of the markets next year, it announced during an earnings report Thursday. It will take part in "no more" than 11 state marketplaces, down from 19 states this year, the company said. Humana’s decision to exit "substantially all" of the state exchanges comes the same day that the Obama administration announced it would step in to block a multibillion-dollar merger between Humana and Aetna. Both are among the nation's five biggest health insurers. Another of those top five, UnitedHealth Group, announced earlier this year that it would be pulling out of most ObamaCare marketplaces, citing its own financial losses.

Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:

On Friday, July 22, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrest Sam Wilson, Jr. Wilson was charged with first-offense DWI, two headlights required, and driving left of center. On Saturday, July 23, deputies arrested Christopher Jones, of Simsboro, for criminal damage to property, battery on a police official, possession of a Schedule II substance with intent to distribute, no driver's license, and reckless operation. On Sunday, July 24, Steven Vines, of Castor, was arrested for driving under suspension and speeding 45/15. On Monday, July 25, Tonya Avant, of Joyce, was arrested for possession of drug paraphenalia. Also arrested Monday were Travis Owens and Delvin Brown, both of Winn Correctional Center, for battery of a corrections employee.

LifeShare Blood Center will hold a blood drive at Wal-Mart in Winnfield Monday, August 1, from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. There will also be a blood drive at Brookshire's in Natchitoches from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving Winnfield residents an opportunity to comment on its proposed plan for cleanup operations at the American Creosote Works Superfund Site. The proposed plan includes soil excavation and off-site disposal, deep soil mixing, excavation and reconstruction of the creek bank areas, and monitoring for the shallow ground water. The public comment period is July 18 through August 19. Comments or recommendations may be mailed to Michael A. Hebert, Remedial Project Manager, EPA Region 6, 1440 Ross Avenue, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX, 75202. Comments may also be emailed to hebert.michael@epa.gov. Everyone is also invited to a public meeting on the proposed plan Thursday, August 4, at 6:00 p.m. at the Winn Parish Library.

Congressman Ralph Abraham has announced satellite office hours for Central Louisiana parishes. Office hours for Winn Parish will be in the Winn Parish Police Jury meeting room at 119 West Main Street, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month. Constituents are encouraged to visit the staff during these hours if they need help with any federal agency. Staff members are also available during business hours at the Central Louisiana District Office in Alexandria, which can be reached at 318-445-0818.

The next meeting of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board will be on Tuesday, August 9, at 9:00 a.m., at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement Office, at 602 North Fifth Street in Baton Rouge. The public is invited to attend this meeting, and assistance will be provided to those who need special accommodations in order to attend this meeting. For more information, persons may call 225.342.1500