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The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped below 2,000 Tuesday for the first time in six weeks, signaling that the peak of the latest surge may have passed.

The seven-day test positivity numbers are also falling in the Teche Area, according to Tuesday’s data from the Louisiana Department of Health.

In its COVID-19 update Wednesday, the state data showed a decrease in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, dropping from 2,003 on Monday to 1,895 Tuesday, a decrease of 108. The state data also shows that the number of patients on ventilators decreased Tuesday to 378, down 20 from Monday’s total of 398.

The last time the state had fewer than 2,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized was on July 30.

The drop in positivity rates, however, could be a consequence of less testing in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The testing frequency fell sharply during the week of Aug. 26 through Sept. 1. On Aug. 25, the testing rate per 10,000 population was 454 for the previous week. On Sept. 1, it was 250.9 per 10,000 residents.

Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29.

Disruption from the storm's passage could bring the high transmission and hospitalization rates back with a vengeance, not only as more people are tested but also as people who may have contracted the disease during evacuation or displacement during Ida becomes symptomatic. 

In Region 4, which encompasses the Acadiana area, hospitalizations dropped by 15 Tuesday to 245, down from 260 Monday. The region’s number of ventilator cases dropped by three, from 64 Monday to 61 on Tuesday.

But Region 4’s ICU bed occupancy rose to 168 Tuesday, with only five beds available across the seven-parish area. That put the percentage of occupied ICU beds at 97.1 percent, up slightly from Monday’s data. 

In Region 3, which stretches from St. Mary Parish east to Lafourche and north to St. Charles, 37 of 41 ICU beds were occupied as of Tuesday, but that total is down by 55 from the 96 ICU beds available prior to Hurricane Ida’s passage. To the west, where Region 5 encompasses the area from Allen, Jefferson Davis and Cameron parishes to the Texas-Louisiana state line, eight of 84 reported ICU beds were available.

The state did update its seven-day test positivity rate Friday. As of Sept. 1, the seven-day percent positivity was at 11.3 percent, down from 12.3 on Aug. 25. 

In Iberia Parish, the seven-day test positivity average was at 18 percent on Sept. 1, down from 21 percent on Aug. 25. In St. Martin Parish, the percentage dropped 10.39 percent on Sept. 1, down from 15.8 percent on Aug. 25 to 13.4 on Sept. 1. St. Mary Parish, however, saw a slight increase, from 16.6 percent on Aug. 25 to 17.8 percent on Sept. 1.

The overall hospital bed occupancy in Region 4 rose to 79.4 percent Tuesday, with 349 of 1,695 beds available.

Iberia Parish had logged 11,760 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 60. The parish COVID-19 death toll rose by four, to 203. In St. Martin Parish, new cases identified brought the total there to 7,869, an increase of 31. The number of deaths rose by three, to 144.

In St. Mary Parish, new cases rose to 8,013, an increase of 25 cases, with deaths rising by two, to 194.

According to Wednesday’s LDH update, the number of COVID-19 cases reported rose by 3,066 since Tuesday, to 705,498. The state recorded 136 new deaths since Tuesday, bringing the total to 12,915.

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

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