As Louisiana COVID-19 numbers keep going up, epidemiologists worry about the future

By: - July 27, 2021 5:25 pm
Virus reaches new record of hospitalizations in Louisiana

A “prone team,” wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), prepares to turn a COVID-19 patient onto his stomach in a Stamford Hospital intensive care unit (ICU), on April 24, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo by John Moore | Getty Images

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s COVID-19 numbers keep getting worse. On Tuesday, the state marked the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since March 2020, the month the virus was first detected in the state. There were 169 more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than there were Monday for a total of 1,390 and 45 more people on ventilators for a total of 127.  In a statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards called the trends “increasingly scary.”

“To see this current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming increasingly scary,” the governor said. “As I said recently, this surge is on us, and that means it is up to each of us to do our part to bring it to an end. It’s within our power. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. It is the best way to put it behind us.”

About 1,908,441 residents have started the vaccination process, with 45,902 more doses administered since vaccine data was last updated. 

The Louisiana Department of Health counted 6,797 new COVID-19 between Monday and Tuesday. That’s the the second highest single-day case count reported since January 6, 2021 when there were 6,882 cases reported.

The health department also counted 20 more deaths. Louisiana, which reached 10,000 COVID-19 fatalities near the end of March, is now less than 70 deaths away from 11,000.

“COVID is surging in Louisiana and it is not slowing down,” State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said in a statement Tuesday. “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.” 

At a Friday news conference, Edwards recommended that everyone wear masks indoors and announced the resumption of a mask mandate in all government agencies across the state. Some businesses and hospitals have implemented new procedures because of the surge, but it is still unclear what new COVID-19 procedures will be implemented in schools. 

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans in places with the highest surges in COVID-19 infections to once again wear masks when they are in public, indoor settings — even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Susan Hassig, a professor in the epidemiology department at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said Tuesday she is most concerned about increased hospitalizations. While she stressed the importance of vaccination, she said the best way for Louisianians to dampen the surge is to commit to wearing masks. 

“The best case scenario is that people start really wearing masks in public spaces and do that to reduce the possibility of spread of this virus,” Hassig said. “Delta is really, really different in terms of how easily it moves in comparison to other strains. It is going to be really important for people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated to really mask up far more than we have the last several months.” 

Some current CDC models of the virus suggest that the nationwide COVID-19 surge could last into October, if mitigation efforts don’t significantly improve. Hassig said it is hard to predict how the Delta strand will act in the upcoming months, given higher transmission rates and changing vaccination data. 

“One of the things that could happen is that we’re ramping up so high so fast with so many infections that maybe we will functionally have the virus storming through our population very quickly. It won’t have anywhere else to go and then cases will start dropping perhaps,” Hassig said. 

Though Hassig said she doesn’t know how likely that possibility is, she said it may be one of the best case scenarios for Louisiana, although it still isn’t ideal. 

“In addition to people getting vaccinated, that’s my best case scenario. But that means lots and lots of people getting infected, and that’s not good for them and it’s not good for the potential of a new variant emerging as well,” Hassig said. “So we don’t have a lot of good scenarios unfortunately.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

Rachel Mipro has previous experience at WBRZ and The Reveille and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Louisiana State University. At LSU, she worked as an opinion editor for The Reveille and as a nonfiction editor for the university’s creative writing journal. In her free time, she enjoys baking, Netflix and hiking.