Wednesday’s Louisiana Department of Health report showed that the state is making progress toward controlling its growth of COVID-19 infections.
Seven parishes are now under the 100 cases per 100,000 required to allow those areas to reopen under Gov. John Bel Edwards' Phase 3 restrictions. In addition to East Carroll and St. James parishes, which were under the limit two weeks ago, five parishes in Hurricane Laura's footprint — Vernon, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis and Acadia — now meet that requirement.
It is not clear from the data if that is real progress or an anomaly resulting from limited or no testing in the storm's aftermath.
But looking at the seven-day map showing the percent of subjects testing positive as of Sept. 9, 33 of the state's 64 parishes recorded week-to-week decreases in the percentage of positive tests.
Those parishes which have had back-to-back weeks of under 5 percent positivity are are Acadia, Bienville, Grant, Jefferson Davis, LaSalle, Orleans, Rapides, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Landry.
St. James Parish, which has the lowest test positivity rate in the state for the last week at 0.8 percent, was at 5.1 percent the previous week. Orleans Parish, which is still being kept under Phase 2 restrictions, which showed the lowest percentage overall for the last two reported periods, had a 3.6 percent positive infection rate for the week ending Sept. 2 and a 2 percent positive infection rate for the week ending Sept. 9.
In Iberia Parish, those weekly rates were 6.2 percent on Sept. 2 and 5.5 percent on Sept. 9. St. Martin Parish showed a drop from 11.4 percent on Sept. 2 to 7.3 percent on Sept. 9. St. Mary Parish dropped from 9.5 percent to 4.3 percent.
In Lafayette Parish, that weekly positivity went from 6.1 percent on Sept. 2 to 5 percent on Sept. 9.
According to Wednesday's LDH update, the state currently has 158,826 identified COVID-19 infections, an increase of 508, or 0.32 percent, from Tuesday’s total of 158,318.
The state added 23,122 new test results Wednesday, for a rough positivity rate of 2.20 percent.
The state’s seven-day average of tests given as of Sept. 11, the last date reported, was 28.54 tests per 10,000 residents. The positivity rate among the tests was 5.07 percent.
The last time the seven-day average positivity rate was below 6 percent was on March 8, when it was at 4.76 percent. That was when the state first started to track testing data.
In Region 4, the Sept. 11 testing rate is below the state average, at 23.62 tests per 10,000 residents. The seven-day average percent positive of those tests as of Sept. 11 was above the state average, at 5.5 percent. The last time Region 4’s seven-day average was that low was on March 19, when it was at 5.1 percent.
According to the Wednesday update, the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 rose to 5,126, up from 5,108 on Tuesday. That rise represents an increase of 18, or a 0.35 percent change. The average age of fatal patients is 75, the median age 77. As of Sept. 16, 168 of those deaths were still considered probable COVID-19 fatalities pending final testing. The number of probable deaths attributed to COVID-19 is updated each week on Wednesday.
In Iberia Parish, the number of cases rose by five on Wednesday, to 2,854. The number of deaths remained at 89, with 29,232 tests performed in the parish. The LDH latest two-week incidence map update showed that the parish’s positive test rate dropped 28.46 percent, from 142.37 cases reported per 100,000 population on Aug. 26 to 118.41 per 100,000 between Aug. 27 and Sept. 9.
St. Martin Parish’s number of identified cases rose by two, to 2,053, with 26,292 tests performed. The LDH two-week incidence map shows that from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9 St. Martin Parish had 117.49 cases reported per 100,000 population, a 37 percent drop from 186.49 per 100,000 in the last update. The number of deaths rose by one, to 60.
In St. Mary Parish, the total cases rose by 14 to 1,857, after 17,375 tests. The number of COVID-19 deaths remained at 75. The LDH incidence map shows that from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 the parish had 124.56 cases reported per 100,000 population, down 29.5 percent from 176.8 on Aug. 25.
In Lafayette Parish, the Wednesday case count rose by 22, to 8,731, with the number of tests rising to 128,197. The number of deaths remained at 122. The LDH incidence map shows that the parish had 137.57 cases reported per 100,000 population between Aug. 27 and Sept. 9, down 16.8 percent from 163.93 on Aug. 26.
The number of cases in Jefferson Parish rose by 46 to 17,123 on Wednesday, compared to an increase of 25, to 12,260, in Orleans Parish. The latest data has Orleans administered more tests, with 195,231 tests in Jefferson compared to 210,355 in Orleans.
Despite lower case numbers, the more urban Orleans Parish has seen 21 more deaths than its suburban neighbor. Orleans Parish deaths rose by one, to 585. In Jefferson Parish, the total number of deaths rose by one, to 564. The LDH incidence map shows that from Aug. 13 to Aug. 26, Jefferson Parish had 141.92 cases reported per 100,000 population, down from 162.88 on Aug. 26. In Orleans, that number was 173.65 per 100,000, up from 125.06.
The LDH reporting of data on hospitalizations due to the disease is still running 24 hours behind. On Wednesday, the state reported 678 hospitalizations as of Tuesday, an increase of 11 from 667 on Monday. The number of patients on ventilators rose by eight, to 107 Tuesday. That is up from 99 on Monday.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Region 4, which covers Acadiana, dropped by six to 53 on Tuesday, down from 59 on Monday. The number of patients on ventilators Tuesday dropped by two, to seven.
The overall intensive care bed occupancy rate in Region 4 dropped from 79.4 percent Monday to 78.125 percent Tuesday, with 125 rooms occupied and 35 ICU beds still available. The total number of ICU beds increased by one, to 160. That is still down from the count of active ICU beds before Hurricane Laura, which hovered above 180.
Tuesday's data also showed that hospital bed occupancy was up in Region 4 at 1,252 — 79.3 percent — of the region’s beds occupied, with 327 available. The total number of reported beds rose by 20, to1,579.
When compared by age group, the number of cases in the 18 to 29 demographic was at 35,252 Wednesday. It is the demographic group with the largest number of identified cases by far. The number of deaths reported in the group remained at 23.
The number of COVID-19 cases identified in the 30 to 39 age group was at 25,797, with 80 deaths, followed closely by the 40 to 49 age group, with 23,611 cases and 169 deaths, and the 50 to 59 age range with 23,085 cases, including 445 fatalities reported.
The 70 and above group case count was at 18,436. The number of deaths in that group rose by eight, to 3,487 — still the largest number of fatalities for any age group by far, more than the number of deaths in all other groups combined and more than two-thirds of the total COVID-19 attributed deaths in the state.
In the 60 to 69 age group, there were 18,042 cases reported and 918 deaths. This age group has the second-highest number of deaths, behind only the 70 and above demographic group.
The under 18 group, the smallest demographic segment, had 14,396 cases total and four reported deaths.
According to Tuesday’s update, labs in Louisiana have processed at least 2,114,145 COVID-19 tests so far.
The state has also started tracking possible cases, which is the number of individuals with a positive test detecting SARS-CoV-2 antigens. That number was 1,039 as of Sept. 16. According to an LDH spokesman, individuals initially identified as having a positive antigen test who are later identified as having a positive confirmatory test will be removed from the probable case count and added to the cumulative case count.
By gender, the state’s daily report shows women making up the largest part — 56 percent — of the identified COVID-19 cases in the state, with men comprising 44 percent. On the other hand, the COVID-19 deaths are predominantly among men, 52 percent to 48 percent for women.
The number of presumed recovered cases, as of Sept. 9, rose to 145,570. In order to be considered recovered, a living patient must either be out of the hospital and 14 days past a positive test result, or 21 days past a positive test date if their hospitalization status is unknown.
On Sept. 16, the weekly update of fatalities by race showed the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among White victims climbed another half a percent, while the number of Black fatalities dropped by almost the same amount.
Initially, LDH reported that 70 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the state were in the Black community. That number has since dropped to 46.44 percent as of Sept. 16, while White victims now make up 52.08 percent of all fatal cases.
The category for victims of unknown race dropped to zero this week. The Native American/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander data remained at 0.08 percent each. Other races identified include Asian at 0.67 percent and Other at 0.63 percent.
The number of Black deaths is still disproportionate to the demographics of the state’s population. African Americans make up less than 40 percent of Louisiana’s populace.
That data is only reported once a week, updated on Wednesday.
The top three underlying conditions among COVID-19 deaths in the latest report were hypertension (55.28 percent), diabetes (33.08 percent), and cardiac disease (21.14 percent).
Other factors included neurological disorders (20.42 percent), chronic kidney disease (19.16 percent), obesity (17.61 percent), congestive heart failure (14.04 percent), pulmonary issues (12.00 percent), cancer (6.90 percent), and asthma (3.57 percent).