‘Every single one’ of Louisiana’s hospitals at risk of overflow

Coronavirus third surge has officials worried

By: - November 19, 2020 9:55 pm
John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks about the coronavirus pandemic at a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 6. (Photo by Julie O’Donoghue)

Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed deep concern Thursday about the continuous increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations across Louisiana, which have climbed by nearly 30 percent over the last seven days and are bringing hospitals to the brink of patient overflow. 

At a press conference Thursday, the governor reported 929 patients in hospitals due to COVID-19, an increase of 43 from Wednesday and 253 from a week ago.

“That is the metric that is most concerning to me,” Edwards said. “Obviously it pains me greatly every day to read the death numbers, but what we know is that the more people in the hospital today, the more people that we’re going to be reporting as a death two weeks three weeks from now.”

The state had 2,073 new confirmed cases and 15 new deaths, bringing cumulative totals to 211,966 cases and 6,199 deaths, respectively. The daily case count came from 27,961 tests administered.

The governor urged Louisianans to minimize contact with family members over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“If we insist on this Thanksgiving looking like last Thanksgiving…then we make it very likely that Christmas a month from now is not going to be one that your family is going to be able to celebrate,” Edwards said.

Anyone planning a Thanksgiving with extended family members all in the same room or sitting at the same table is “making a mistake,” the governor said.

Speaking on behalf of 26 physician colleagues in Baton Rouge, Dr. Christopher Thomas, a critical care physician at Our Lady of the Lake said Louisiana’s response to the coronavirus situation needs to be “all hands on deck,” meaning the citizens need to respond in ways they currently are not.

“People’s mindsets need to change,” Thomas said.

“Every single one” of Louisiana’s hospitals are suffering from staffing shortages and are either at or near maximum patient capacity due to the virus, Thomas said. 

An ongoing risk to frontline healthcare workers is contracting the virus from their patients, which Thomas experienced himself.

“I am not ashamed to say that I had fear upon the diagnosis (and) that I had seen critically ill patients in my hospital not be able to survive, and I was given that same possibility,” Thomas said. “I think that is real, that is logical, that is science, and we should recognize that possibility when we think about our loved ones.”

Louisiana is coming off having the lowest percent positivity rate and cases per capita in the South, which the governor attributed to the face mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions put in place over the summer. However, the recent third surge is showing no signs of improvement.

The petition created by the state’s House GOP members, which tried to end the restrictions, has caused confusion among citizens who disregarded coronavirus mitigation measures, Edwards said. A 19th Judicial District judge recently ruled that petition unconstitutional.

The governor again asked Louisianans to wear face masks and practice social distancing for what many hope will be the virus’ final surge until vaccines become available. Edwards said frontline healthcare workers in Louisiana could start receiving the vaccine before the end of the year.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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