Rise in cases sparks reinstitution of many mask requirements

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 drives infection numbers higher nationwide, Louisiana has resumed its position as the hottest hot spot per capita for the disease, forcing some leaders to reinstitute mask mandates in an attempt to control the spread of the pandemic’s latest wave.

On Friday, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell put an indoor mask mandate back in place for the city. Friday afternoon Gov. John Bel Edwards said his staff had received the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant and would make a decision on a possible statewide mask mandate before his press conference Monday afternoon.

At Iberia Medical Center, masks are now required to enter the campus. The hospital said it had already resumed its limits on visitors, restricting inpatient visitation to allow one unique, assigned visitor at a time during established visiting hours, with no visitors under 18 allowed at all.

Last week IMC had between 20 and 30 COVID-positive inpatient beds full each day. The daily average of COVID-19 inpatients in the intensive care unit and requiring a ventilator was between four and six.

According to a press release from the hospital, none of the people receiving inpatient care were previously fully vaccinated. Only one patient with a breakthrough infection — a COVID-19 positive person who had been fully vaccinated — was admitted in all of July.

The Friday COVID-19 update from the Louisiana Department of Health showed a continued climb in the number of hospitalizations in the state, adding another 120 cases to cross the 1,700 mark.

According to the LDH statistics, there were 5,313 new COVID-19 cases reported to the state Thursday. The daily update showed 1,740 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, with 167 of those patients on ventilators, an increase of five.

Region 4, which encompasses Acadiana, continues to post high numbers as well. Hospitalizations as of Thursday were at 217, the highest they have been since Jan. 8 and an increase of six overnight. That is up from 138 only a week prior, and showing no signs of slowing. Of those cases, 21 are on ventilators, the highest since Feb. 2 but one less than Wednesday.

Region 4’s ICU beds are full, according to the latest state data. As of Thursday, there were only three of the 155 beds across the region available, for an occupancy rate of 98 percent. The overall hospital bed occupancy is at 78.6 percent, with 364 of 1,701 available.

In a briefing Friday, Ochsner Health System representatives said the group currently has 643 COVID-19 patients in its facilities across Louisiana and Mississippi — 100 of those added in the previous two days. That represents a 17 percent increase in COVID-19 patients since Wednesday. According to an Ochsner spokeswoman, 90 percent of those patients were unvaccinated.

Statewide, 90 percent of new infections, 85 percent of deaths and 89 percent of hospitalizations between July 15 and 21 were among unvaccinated patients.

Across the Teche Area, the same trends are in motion with regard to testing positivity. In Iberia Parish, the seven-day positivity rate rose by four full points in a week — from 11.6 percent on July 14 to 15.6 percent on July 21. That comes after a three-point rise in the previous week.

St. Mary Parish saw a 3.1 percent increase, from 13.1 percent to 16.2 percent. In St. Martin Parish, the seven-day average positivity rose 5.4 points over the same period, from 15.1 to 20.5 percent.

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

Load comments