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As the number of new cases continues to drop in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the state will widen its group of people allowed to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, dropping the age from 70 to 65 effective Monday.

In a press conference Thursday, Edwards said the expansion of the pool of citizens able to get vaccinated means an additional 275,000 of those most at risk from the pandemic will have access to vaccines.

“Data shows that people between the ages of 65 and 74 are five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and 90 times more likely to die than younger people,” Edwards said. “Especially as new variants of the coronavirus spread throughout the country and state, it’s absolutely critical that we vaccinate as many people as we can and that everyone in Louisiana gets their shot when it is their turn and continues to wear masks, stay home when they can, keep social distance and avoid gatherings with people outside of their immediate household.”

COVID-19 update

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the state added 2,758 new COVID-19 cases Thursday based on 39,519 new tests, pushing the state’s total of identified cases to 408,995. The new results, however, includes 844 cases which were backlogged, coming from new urgent care centers reporting for the first time. Those tests go back to Oct. 22 of last year.

Of the overall identified cases, 354,788 are confirmed, with 54,207 listed as possible cases.

According to an LDH spokesman, people initially identified as having a positive antigen test who are later identified as having a positive confirmatory test will be removed from the possible case count and added to the cumulative case count.

The rough positivity rate for the new cases reported Thursday, including the backlogged cases, was 7 percent. 

Louisiana had 9,044 total COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday, with 38 new deaths added. Of the total deaths, 8,453 are confirmed with 591 considered probable COVID-19 fatalities pending final testing.

The average age of fatal patients remained at 75, while the median age was at 76.

Local numbers

In Iberia Parish, the number of cases was at 6,146 Thursday, an increase of 32. Of those, 5,667 are confirmed, with 479 probable. The number of deaths rose by one, 139, with 127 confirmed and 12 probable. There have been 74,912 tests performed in the parish. The seven-day average test positivity dropped 12.8 percent, from 9.4 percent on Jan. 20 to 8.2 percent on Jan. 27. The incidence of tests dropped by 14.6 percent, from 346.77 per 10,000 population on Jan. 20 to 296 on Jan. 27.

St. Martin Parish’s number of identified cases rose to 4,671, an increase of eight, with 54,194 tests performed. The seven-day average test positivity rate dropped from 12.9 percent on Jan. 20  to 10 percent on Jan. 27, a 22.5 percent decrease, while the incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped from 318.9 on Jan. 20 to 246.2 on Jan. 20. The number of deaths remained at 106, with 98 confirmed and eight probable.

In St. Mary Parish, the seven-day positivity rate dropped to 5.7 percent as of January 27, down from 8 percent on Jan. 20, a 28.8 percent decrease. The testing incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped slightly, from 309.4 on Jan. 20 to 267.2 on Jan. 27. Total cases Thursday rose by 14, to 3,904, after 46,050 tests. Of those cases, 3,214 are confirmed, with 690 probable. The number of COVID-19 deaths remained at 115, with 104 confirmed and 11 probable. 

Around the state

In Lafayette Parish, the Thursday case count rose by 43, to 20,827, with the number of tests rising to 267,322. The seven-day test positivity average dropped from 10.1 percent on Jan. 20 to 8.2  percent as of Jan. 27, a decrease of 18.8 percent. The testing incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped during the same period, from 292.4 to 251.3. The number of deaths remained at 239, with 223 confirmed and 16 probable. 

The number of cases in Jefferson Parish rose to 41,824 on Thursday, an increase of 133, compared to an increase of 118, to 27,001 in Orleans Parish. The latest data shows Orleans administered more tests, with 673,345, compared to 511,652 tests in Jefferson.

Jefferson Parish continues to surpass the COVID-19 death toll in Orleans Parish. Orleans Parish deaths rose to 735, an increase of three, with 688 confirmed and 47 probable. In Jefferson Parish, the total number of deaths rose by one, to 798, with 770 confirmed and 29 probable.

Hospitalizations

The LDH reporting on hospitalizations statewide due to coronavirus infections dropped below 1,300, to 1,295 hospitalizations on Wednesday, a decrease of 91 from 1,386 on Tuesday. The number of patients on ventilators dropped by 18, to 162.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Region 4, which covers Acadiana, dropped by seven, to 124 Wednesday. The number of patients on ventilators dropped by four, to 19.

Overall hospital bed occupancy in Region 4 Wednesday was at 78.5 percent, with 1,317 of the region’s beds occupied and 360 available. The total number of reported beds was at 1,677.

Overall intensive care unit occupancy across Acadiana remained above 90 percent Wednesday, at 91.25 percent, with 146 of 160 beds occupied.

The overall occupancy percentages are based on all cases, not just COVID-19 cases, and includes not only the physical bed and space but also the staff required to issue care. The burden of additional patient load affects the ability of hospitals to serve all patients, especially in critical care situations.

By age group

Broken down by age group, the number of cases statewide in the 18 to 29 demographic was at 83,790 Thursday. It is the demographic group with the largest number of identified cases by far. The number of deaths reported in the group was 30. 

The number of COVID-19 cases identified in the 30 to 39 age group was at 65,586, with 116 deaths, followed closely by the 40 to 49 age group, with 59,383 cases and 263 deaths, and the 50 to 59 age range with 58,897 cases, including 750 fatalities reported. 

In the 60 to 69 age group, there were 47,447 cases reported and 1,660 deaths. This age group has the second-highest number of deaths, behind only the 70 and above demographic group.

The 70 and above group case count was at 43,289. The number of deaths in that group rose to 6,218 — 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.

The under 18 group had 50,303 cases total — 9,201 age 4 and under — and seven reported deaths.

Seven-day average

The state’s seven-day average of tests given as of Jan. 27 was 347.1 tests per 10,000 residents, down from 354.3 on Jan. 20. The positivity rate among those tests dropped as of Jan. 27 to 8.3 percent, down from 8.7 percent on Jan. 20. 

In Region 4, the Jan. 20 testing rate was at 323.8 tests per 10,000 residents. The seven-day average percent positive of those tests was beow the state average at 7.6 percent, down from 9.1 percent on Jan. 20.

According to Thursday’s update, labs in Louisiana have processed 5,451,598 COVID-19 tests so far.

Gender, underlying conditions

By gender, the state’s weekly 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, 52.9 percent to 47.1 percent for women.

The number of presumed recovered cases, as of Feb. 1, rose to 363,457. 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.

Initially, LDH reported that 70 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the state were in the Black community. That number dropped to 39.63 percent as of Jan. 20, while White victims now make up 59 percent of all fatal cases. 

The Native American/Alaskan Native total was at 0.12 percent. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander data remained at 0.08 percent. Other races identified include Asian at 0.69 percent, Unknown at 0.06 percent and Other at 0.38 percent.

That data is only reported once every two weeks as of the beginning of the year, with the next update due on Feb. 10.

The top three underlying conditions among COVID-19 deaths in the latest report were hypertension (65.5 percent), diabetes (38.59 percent), and neurological disorders (27.68 percent).

Other factors included cardiac disease (27.63 percent), chronic kidney disease (22.18 percent), obesity (21.57 percent), congestive heart failure (16.86 percent), pulmonary issues (14.22 percent), cancer (9.22 percent), and asthma (4.12 percent). Only 4.3 percent of all patients had no underlying conditions.

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

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