State resumes place atop list of COVID hotspots nationwide

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Orleans was the poster child for unchecked spread of the virus, largely due to the 2020 Mardi Gras celebration.

Now, more than a year later, the state has resumed its place at the lead of COVID hotspots, attributed in large part to abysmally low vaccination numbers among the state’s residents.

In a rare step, a press release accompanied the daily report on COVID-19 from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Tuesday. In the release, officials pointed to the steep climb in new cases and hospitalizations — and highlighted the fact that a very high percentage of those newly recorded illnesses were among unvaccinated residents.

“To see this current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming increasingly scary,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to the release. “We reported nearly 6,800 cases today in addition to the nearly 8,000 that were reported from the weekend. And today, there are close to 1,400 COVID patients hospitalized statewide — approximately 90 percent of whom are unvaccinated. This is the largest single daily increase since March of last year. the largest single daily increase since March of last year.”

According to the LDH statistics, there were 6,797 new COVID-19 cases reported to the state between noon on July 26 and noon on July 27 — the second highest single-day case count reported since Jan. 6. Tuesday’s report also showed 1,390 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, an increase of 169 hospitalizations since Sunday.

That increase in hospitalizations marked the largest single-day increase since March 2020.

In Region 4, which encompasses Acadiana, the numbers are no better. Hospitalizations as of Monday were at 172, the highest they have been since Jan. 25. That is up from 110 only a week ago, and showing no signs of slowing. The most recent seven-day percent positive count, on July 14, shows that 9.9 percent of all COVID-19 tests in Region 4 returned a positive result, the highest since Jan. 6. That is also 1.2 percent higher than the state’s percent positive rate, which was at 8.7 percent on July 14.

Across the Teche Area, the same trends are in motion. In Iberia Parish, the seven-day positivity rate rose by three full points in a week — from 8.6 percent on July 7 to 11.6 percent on July 14.

It was the lowest rise among the three Teche Area parishes. St. Mary Parish saw an increase from 9 percent to 13 percent. In St. Martin Parish, it rose four and a half points over the same period, from 9.8 to 14.3 percent.

In Region 4, ICU beds are becoming scarcer. As of Monday, there were 39 of 145 beds available, for an occupancy of 73.1 percent. The overall hospital bed occupancy is at 71.8 percent, with 473 of 1,679 available. This is still far lower than the height of the last wave of infections, when the dual-edged sword of storm closures and rising infection rates had hospitals at 90 percent — and higher — occupancy.

According to a WalletHub.com survey, Louisiana is currently at the bottom of the “safest state” list. According to the website, the state ranks 50th in vaccination rate, 49th in death rate, 42nd in positive testing rate, 46th in hospitalization rate and 29th in transmission rate.

“COVID is surging in Louisiana and it is not slowing down,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter, the chief medical officer at LDH. “As the dangerous and dominant Delta variant continues to spread and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, we urge all individuals in Louisiana to protect themselves and their families.

“Mask while indoors and get tested if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID-19,” he continued. “These are public health emergency measures that will limit death and suffering during this fourth surge. To ultimately put this pandemic behind us we need many more Louisianans to go sleeves up, which is why it’s so encouraging to see our weekly vaccination rate climbing.”

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

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