Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday afternoon that he will be relaxing most of the COVID-19 restriction that were put in place last summer after the state’s abortive first attempt at moving into Phase 3 of the pandemic recovery process.

According to Edwards, the new Phase 3 will be similar to those put in place last fall and will expire on March 31.

There are some changes. Bars will be allowed to serve indoors up to 25 percent of their rated capacity statewide. In parishes where the percent positive rate is under 5 percent for seven days, that would go up to 50 percent. Live music will be allowed indoors with some limits.

Churches and other places of worship will not be subject to capacity restrictions, but a mask requirement will remain in place. Social distancing encouraged.

The state’s mask mandate will also remain in place.

Statewide status

The Louisiana Department of Health added 770 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday based on 26,190 new tests, pushing the state’s total of identified cases to 431,271.

Of the overall identified cases, 370,797 are confirmed, with 60,474 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 Wednesday was 2.9 percent.

Louisiana had 9,647 total COVID-19 deaths as of Tuesday, with 19 new deaths added. Of the total deaths, 8,957 are confirmed with 690 considered probable COVID-19 fatalities pending final testing.

The average age of fatal patients remained at 75, while the median age was at 76 as of Feb. 24.

Local numbers

In Iberia Parish, the number of cases rose to 6,481 Tuesday, an increase of four. Of those, 5,957 are confirmed, with 524 probable. The number of deaths remained at 146, with 134 confirmed and 12 probable. There have been 81,528 tests performed in the parish. The seven-day average test positivity rose 13.8 percent, from 5.8 percent on Feb. 10 to 6.6 percent on Feb. 17. The incidence of tests dropped by 61 percent, from 191.7 per 10,000 population on Feb. 10 to 74.7 on Feb. 17.

St. Martin Parish’s number of identified cases rose to 4,858, an increase of 16, with 58,473 tests performed. The seven-day average test positivity rate dropped from 5.6 percent on Feb. 10 to 5.4 percent on Feb. 17, a 3.6 percent decrease, while the testing incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped 63.2 percent, from 126.8 on Feb. 10 to 46.6 on Feb. 17. The number of deaths remained at 112, with 102 confirmed and 10 probable.

In St. Mary Parish, the seven-day positivity rate rose to 6 percent as of Feb. 17, up from 3.8 percent on Feb. 10, a 57.9 percent increase. The testing incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped, from 138.6 on Feb. 10 to 96.4 on Feb. 17. Total cases Tuesday rose to 4,152 after 50,496 tests. Of those positive tests, 3,343 are confirmed, with 809 probable. The number of COVID-19 deaths remained at 121, with 109 confirmed and 12 probable.

Around the state

In Lafayette Parish, the Wednesday case count rose by 15, to 21,617, with the number of tests rising to 288,220. The seven-day test positivity average rose from 3.7 percent on Feb. 10 to 4.5 percent as of Feb. 17, an increase of 21.6 percent. The testing incidence rate per 10,000 population dropped during the same period, from 103 to 60.1, a 41.6 percent decrease. The number of deaths remained at 262, with 244 confirmed and 18 probable.

The number of cases in Jefferson Parish rose to 44,014 on Tuesday, compared to an increase to 28,565 in Orleans Parish. The latest data shows Orleans administered more tests, with 770,868, compared to 562,407 tests in Jefferson.

Jefferson Parish continues to surpass the COVID-19 death toll in Orleans Parish. Orleans Parish deaths were at 762, with 713 confirmed and 49 probable. In Jefferson Parish, the total number of deaths rose to 847, with 816 confirmed and 31 probable.

Hospitalizations

The LDH reporting on hospitalizations statewide due to coronavirus infections remained at 629 on Monday. The number of patients on ventilators dropped by two, to 89.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Region 4, which covers Acadiana, remained at 52 Monday. The number of patients on ventilators dropped by one, to seven.

Overall hospital bed occupancy in Region 4 Monday was at 72.4 percent, with 1,214 of the region’s beds occupied and 462 available. The total number of reported beds was at 1,676.

Overall intensive care unit occupancy across Acadiana was still below 90 percent Monday, at 87.5 percent, with 147 of 168 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 87,936 Tuesday. It is the demographic group with the largest number of identified cases by far. The number of deaths reported in the group was 32.

The number of COVID-19 cases identified in the 30 to 39 age group was at 69,151, with 125 deaths, followed closely by the 40 to 49 age group, with 62,752 cases and 277 deaths, and the 50 to 59 age range with 62,135 cases, including 798 fatalities reported.

In the 60 to 69 age group, there were 49,879 cases reported and 1,817 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 44,850. The number of deaths in that group rose to 6,591 — 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 54,255 cases total — 9,902 age 4 and under — and seven reported deaths.

Seven-day average

The state’s seven-day average of tests given as of Feb. 17 was 159.8 tests per 10,000 residents, down almost half from 300.5 on Feb. 10. The positivity rate among those tests rose by a tenth of a point as of Feb. 17 to 5 percent, up from 4.9 percent on Feb. 10.

In Region 4, the Feb. 17 testing rate was even lower, at 153.9 tests per 10,000 residents. The seven-day average percent positive of those tests was lower than the state average at 4.7 percent, up from 4.6 percent on Feb. 10.

According to Thursday’s update, labs in Louisiana have processed 6,004,999 COVID-19 tests so far.

Gender, underlying conditions

By gender, the state’s bi-weekly report shows women still 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, 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent for women.

The number of presumed recovered cases, as of Feb. 22, rose to 408,463. 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 38.7 percent as of Feb. 24, while White victims now make up 59.8 percent of all fatal cases.

The Native American/Alaskan Native total was at 0.15 percent. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander data remained at 0.08 percent. Other races identified include Asian at 0.77 percent, Unknown at 0.01 percent and Other at 0.41 percent.

That data is supposed to be reported once every two weeks as of the beginning of the year.

The top three underlying conditions among COVID-19 deaths in the Feb. 24 report were hypertension (62.8 percent), diabetes (37 percent), and cardiac disease (26.7 percent).

Other factors included neurological disorders (26.3 percent), chronic kidney disease (21.5 percent), obesity (21 percent), congestive heart failure (16.3 percent), pulmonary issues (14.6 percent), cancer (8.8 percent), and asthma (4.1 percent). Only 4.2 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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