ICU occupancy, Aug. 17, 2021

As the COVID-19 Delta variant continues its march across southwest Louisiana, intensive care beds are becoming a rare commodity as patients fill every available space across the region.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health update Wednesday, Region 4’s ICU bed occupancy was at 164 Tuesday, with only one bed available across the seven-parish area. That put the percentage of occupied ICU beds at 99.4 percent. 

Neighboring parishes are not faring much better. In Region 3, which stretches from St. Mary Parish east to Lafourche and north to St. Charles, 90 of 95 ICU beds were occupied as of Tuesday. To the west, where Region 5 encompasses the area from Allen, Jefferson Davis and Cameron parishes to the Texas-Louisiana state line, only two of 79 ICU beds were available.

In Lafayette, the U.S. Department of Defense deployed an emergency response team to Ochsner Lafayette General Hospital, where 20 doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists from the U.S. Navy will help with the increased patient load the hospital is experiencing. That team is expected in Lafayette today.

Even though the ICU occupancy is at a crisis level, the overall hospital bed occupancy in Region 4 is still high. As of Tuesday, the occupancy rate climbed above 80 percent, landing at 81.9 percent with only 313 of 1,729 beds available.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state continued its climb Tuesday, adding 10 to Monday’s total to reach 3,022. That is the highest number of hospitalizations the state has seen since it began recording COVID-19 data in March, 2020.

The state also reported 448 patients on ventilators as of Tuesday, an increase of seven from Monday. That is the highest that total has been since April 13, 2020, when there were 461 people on ventilators during the first wave of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations in Region 4 reached 409 Tuesday, an increase of eight from Monday’s tally and a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region. The region also added one new ventilator case, bringing that total to 59, the highest recorded in the region during the pandemic.

Statewide, 89 percent of new infections and 80 percent of deaths between Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 and 91 percent of the state’s current hospitalizations were among unvaccinated patients. 

Iberia Parish had logged 10,465 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 157 since Tuesday. The parish COVID-19 death toll remained at 179. In St. Martin Parish, 79 new cases were identified, bringing the total there to 7,265. The number of deaths remained at 126.

In St. Mary Parish, new cases rose to 7,351, an increase of 69, with deaths rising by two, to 167.

The seven-day test positivity rates released Wednesday showed the Teche Area numbers dropping slightly but remaining high. In Iberia Parish, the seven-day positivity rate dropped from 24.6 percent on Aug. 4 to 24.3 percent on Aug. 11, which is slightly more than a 1 percent decrease. In St. Martin Parish, the seven-day average positivity dropped two-thirds of a point over the same period, from 22.6 to 22 percent. St. Mary Parish saw a 10.1 percent decrease, from 17.8 percent to 16 percent.

All three parishes are well beyond the state average, which was at 15.5 percent as of Aug. 11, a decrease from 16.1 percent on Aug. 4. Across Region 4, which encompasses the Acadiana parishes, the overall seven-day positivity rate was down slightly, from 18.7 percent on Aug. 4 to 18.3 percent on Aug. 11.

The seven-day percent positivity numbers released Wednesday cover the first full week Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reinstated mask mandate, which was instituted on Aug. 1. Those figures are released one week after the week in which the data is collected.

According to Wednesday’s LDH update, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday rose by 6,606, to 638,443. The state reported 87 new deaths. 

On the vaccine front, the Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will make “booster shots” available for those people already vaccinated starting on Sept. 20. Those shots should be administered eight months after the patient’s second initial shot, or their first if they had the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine.

Overall, Louisiana is still fifth from the bottom of the list of states in its percentage of population fully vaccinated. According to the Mayo Clinics, the state has fully vaccinated only 37.8 percent of its population, although 47 percent of the population has now had at least one dose of a vaccine.

Only Alabama, Mississippi, Wyoming and Idaho have lower vaccination rates. Louisiana is seventh with regard to one-dose patients, with West Virginia and North Dakota showing lower numbers.

 

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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