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A patient completes a self-swab COVID-19 test at a CVS Pharmacy drive-thru testing site, one of a thousand locations the company plans to operate around the country by the end of May. Photo Courtesy CVS Health

The Louisiana Department of Health showed another large increase in identified COVID-19 cases Thursday, attributing more than half of the new cases to backlog from 23 new reporting labs.

According to the regular LDH update, 1,188 new cases were added Thursday. Of those, 682 — 62 percent — are from labs reporting cases electronically for the first time from as far back as March 25.

If the backlogged cases are removed from the total, the state saw an increase of 506 newly reported cases, higher than has been seen in the last week or so. 

The historical cases were recorded on their proper dates in the LDH database dates and are reflected in the "date of onset of symptoms" visualization on the agency’s website. 

“While this is the biggest single increase in cases we have seen since April 9, it is important to understand the context,” said Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health, in a statement accompanying Thursday’s update. “Not only are there cases here dating back to late March, but we also have increased testing. That only 6.1 percent of all these test results are positive is a good sign. Our goal is to keep that number below 10 percent, the goal set by the federal government.”

The addition of those 1,188 cases Thursday brings the total identified COVID-19 infections in the state to 36,504. That marks a 3.36 percent increase over Wednesday’s total of 35,316 cases. According to the LDH press release, the department expects higher case counts in the coming days while ramping up testing in congregate settings. 

Even with that upward adjustment in identified cases, the number of hospitalizations is continuing to trend downward, dropping by 47 to 884. The number of patients statewide on ventilators also went down, dropping by three to 107.

The state cumulative tally of COVID-19 deaths increased by 21, going from 2,485 on Wednesday to 2,506 in Thursday’s report. That rise represents an increase of 0.85 percent. As of May 17, 123 of those deaths were still considered probable COVID-19 fatalities pending final testing. The number of probable deaths is updated each week on Monday. 

In Iberia Parish, the total number of cases rose by 25 to 384. The number of deaths remained at 35. There have been 3,884 tests logged in the parish.

St. Mary Parish saw an increase of seven cases, to 288, after 2,518 tests. The number of COVID-19 deaths in the parish remained at 29.

In St. Martin Parish, the number of known cases rose to 287 with 2,801 tests performed. The number of deaths remained static, at 22.

In Lafayette Parish, the case count climbed by 24 to 631. The number of deaths remained at  23. There have been 13,991 tests performed in the parish.

The number of cases in Jefferson Parish rose by 33 to 7,128 7,175 on Thursday, compared to a rise of 15 new cases in Orleans Parish to bring that total to 6,884 6,904. Both parishes have had similar numbers of tests conducted — 39,722 in Jefferson compared to 39,331 in Orleans.

Even with similar case and test numbers, the more urban Orleans Parish has seen 68 more deaths than its suburban neighbor. Orleans Parish deaths remained at 500 overnight. Jefferson saw its death toll rise by one, for a total of 432 fatalities.

The 70 and above group case count rose to 6,780 cases, making it the age group with the largest number of identified cases. The number of deaths in that group rose to 1,676 — 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 number of Louisiana COVID-19 cases identified in the 50-59 age range rose to 6,753 — including 221 fatalities. 

In the 40 to 49 age group, the number of cases has risen to 6,058 with 94 deaths reported. In the 60 to 69 age group, there were 5,843 cases reported and 460 deaths.  

There were 5,794 identified cases in the 30-39 age group, and 44 deaths. The 18 to 29 age group had 4,570 cases and nine reported deaths. The under 18 group had 706 cases total, with two deaths reported.

The state reference lab has processed 13,568 COVID-19 tests so far. There have been 291,813 tests processed through commercial labs, for a total of 305,381 tests so far.

“We believe we are beginning to see the impact of comprehensive testing across congregate settings and workplace outbreaks,” Billioux said. “This is what suppression of COVID-19 looks like—and it is critical to moving our state forward.”

By gender, the state’s daily report shows women making up the largest part — 55 percent — of the identified COVID-19 cases in the state, with men comprising 40 percent and the other five percent identified as unknown or other. On the other hand, the COVID-19 deaths are predominantly among men, 54.40 percent to 45.6 percent for women.

The state resumed reporting information on the number of infections among nursing home residents and staff on Monday, as well as the number of deaths among residents. In Iberia Parish, the data showed only one home, Consolata Nursing Home, had no reported infections among its 63 residents, although it had one employee reported to have tested positive for COVID-19. 

At the other end of the scale, New Iberia Manor South reported 52 of its 53 residents tested positive for COVID-19, along with 21 staff members. Thirteen of the facility’s residents have died from the disease. 

The state had reported the number of clusters of infections at specific nursing homes and long-term care facilities until April 1, when it stopped. Instead, LDH began reporting aggregate totals of infected facilities and residents. Those reports were also limited to twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday.

This is also the first time LDH has reported the number of COVID-19 infections among the staff at these facilities. The report is scheduled to be updated weekly.

The number of presumed recovered cases, as of May 17, rose to 26,249. 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. As with the number of probable fatalities, that statistic is scheduled to be updated weekly, on Monday.

The breakdown of COVID-19 fatalities by ethnicity and race showed some change last week, with the percentage of those deaths in the black community rising, but not to the point it had been a month ago. 

Initially, LDH reported that 70 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the state were in the black community. That number has since hovered in the mid-to-high 50-percent range. It dropped to 55.33 percent  Monday from 56.07 percent a week ago. That data is only reported once a week.

The number is still disproportionate to the demographics of the state’s population. African Americans make up about 40 percent of Louisiana’s populace. 

The top three underlying conditions among COVID-19 deaths in the latest report were hypertension (59.39 percent), diabetes (36.65 percent), and cardiac disease (20.92 percent). Other factors included chronic kidney disease (20.10 percent), obesity (19.69 percent), congestive heart failure (12.90 percent), pulmonary issues (11.71 percent), neurological disorders (8.43 percent), cancer (7.57 percent), and asthma (4.15 percent).

 

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

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