Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks about the dangers of the Delta variant (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)
BATON ROUGE – At a Friday news conference called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to discuss the state’s most recent COVID-19 statistics, Dr. John Vanchiere, director of community testing and vaccination outreach at LSU Health Shreveport’s Center for Emerging Viral Threats, said the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus isn’t sparing Louisiana’s youngest residents and that a full 20% of the state’s new infections are occurring in children.
“Children in Louisiana have died of Covid, and more unfortunately will die,” the doctor said. Then, in a reference to complaints from parents and politicians who don’t want a face mask mandate, Vanchiere said, “This is not a time for politics.”
Though most pediatric COVID-19 cases have been mild, Vanchiere said that there are more now than ever before.
“Our children under the age of 12, our school-age children are not eligible for vaccines. They are at great risk now,” Vanchiere said. “This is a different pandemic than we dealt with a year ago.”
Vanchiere said a baby born premature tested positive for the virus. He emphasized the need for masking in schools to help prevent loss of life.
Gov. Edwards reimplemented a statewide mask mandate Monday. The governor said he is heartened by increased vaccination rates across the state, but Louisiana still leads the nation in COVID-19 case, and the numbers aren’t looking good for the state’s vulnerable populations.
Though around 86% of nursing home residents have initiated or completed vaccination, nursing home staff vaccination still hovers around 50%, making breakthrough cases for nursing home residents more likely. In the past week, there have been 136 COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents, most of them mild.
Across the state, 2,038,741 Louisianians have initiated vaccine series.The More than 900,00 have signed up for the vaccine lottery program ““Shot at A Million.” which drew in 902,758 people registering for the program across the state.
However, transmission rates are still surging. As of noon on Friday, there were 6,116 new COVID-19 cases statewide and 48 new COVID-19 deaths. There were 2,421 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, and 277 COVID-19 patients on ventilators. All parishes in the state are at the highest risk levels for COVID-19.
Hospitals across the state are increasingly overwhelmed. About 50 hospitals have asked the Louisiana Department of Health for help.
Stephanie Flood, commander of a national disaster assistance team working in Louisiana, said her medical staff is working to relieve the strain on hospitals and that the patients she’d seen were in bad shape.
“I’ve never seen patients that have so many drips running, so this is a very urgent situation right now,” Flood said.
Gov. Edwards emphasized the need for everyone to take the pandemic seriously, condemning Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry for spreading what the governor called false information.
“I think the attorney general’s just completely wrong. Not only is he wrong, he’s going out of his way to undermine public confidence in the basic mitigation measures that will slow transmission at a time we need it more than any other time in this pandemic,” Edwards said. “It is sad. It is also irresponsible, and it is dangerous.”
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