Gov. John Bel Edwards announces a $1 million lottery as a vaccine incentive program in Louisiana. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed the gravity of surging COVID-19 cases across the state in a Friday press conference, but he said he does not plan to implement any additional restrictions.
“At the moment, I am not considering reimposing mitigation measures or mandates,” Edwards said. “We will obviously continue to look at the numbers over time but we’re just not there yet.”
Instead, Edwards said he hopes more Louisiana residents will see the growing number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities and make the decision to get vaccinated. Edwards also credited the state’s vaccine lottery, “A Shot At A Million,” with increasing vaccination numbers, announcing the winners of the first lottery at the news conference.
Since the beginning of February, 97% of all COVID-19 cases and fatalities have been people who were not fully vaccinated. With 35 new outbreaks and 200 new outbreak-related cases in the past week, a 169% increase in reported outbreaks and a 96% increase in the number of outbreak-associated cases over the previous week, Edwards said vaccination is crucial.
“We know that well over 90% of all of our current cases, hospitalizations and deaths; wholly preventable,” Edwards said. ”It really is this simple: Roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated. There are three safe and effective vaccines.”
According to Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s state health officer, the sharpest increases in cases are among younger people, affecting people ages 5-39.
Kanter is also worried about hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Hospitalization rates doubled in just over two weeks with 563 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized around the state. Some hospitals are also having trouble finding nurses, according to Kanter. He said many were affected by the mental toll of working during a pandemic.
Catherine O’Neal, the medical director of infection control and prevention at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center said the Delta variant is increasingly affecting children and pregnant mothers.
“Delta variant is coming for our children,” O’Neal said. “We are seeing increased admissions, we are seeing increased office visits, we are seeing sick kids and intubated kids today in our hospital.”
Without higher vaccination rates, O’Neal said this pandemic might continue for years, creating more surges and more variants.
“I want to be clear after seeing what we’ve seen the last two weeks,” O’Neal said. “We only have two choices. We are either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic, or we are going to accept death.”
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