Your Thanksgiving plans will determine if coronavirus surges again

Louisiana health officials urge caution over holiday gatherings

By: - November 23, 2021 4:07 pm
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Coronavirus COVID-19 computer generated image. (Getty Images)

Louisiana is going into the Thanksgiving holiday with some of the lowest COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates since the pandemic began, but state officials warn that individual and family behavior over the next few days will determine whether that downward trend continues or reverses into a fifth surge.

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“We’re thankfully very much out of the fourth surge,” said Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson Aly Neel. “It was the largest, most dangerous, most devastating surge to date and that was due to the Delta variant. That’s good, but I think it’s really important to remind folks that COVID is still spreading all across the state and we remain very vulnerable to a future equally-devastating surge.”

Statewide hospitalizations dipped to 194 on Tuesday, one of the lowest numbers Louisiana has seen and second only to the 189 hospitalizations recorded on Nov. 13. Daily case counts and deaths are also trending to new lows. There were no deaths on Friday, and the daily death count has remained below six since Nov. 15, according to Health Department data as of Tuesday afternoon. 

There is typically a delay between when deaths occur and when they are reported to health officials, so the death count will likely be adjusted in the coming days, Neel said. 

“Last year at this time we were seeding our third surge,” Neel said. “It’s really important going into the holiday season — we want people to be able to gather with loved ones, and the way to do that is to make sure you are fully vaccinated and the people you gather with are fully vaccinated.”

Although the situation looks like a significant improvement, the numbers are only slightly lower than they were at this same time last year. Louisiana saw single-digit death counts for much of October last year until the trend shifted in mid-November, reaching 27 deaths on Nov. 23, 2020 as the coronavirus climbed into its third surge with the help of Thanksgiving Day gatherings. 

For this reason, officials are worried that the gains made over the last two months will be short-lived if people make haphazard holiday plans this week.

“We’re unfortunately very much not out of the woods,” Neel said. “We don’t know if there’s going to be a post-holiday surge. Individual and family behavior will absolutely determine that.”

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Louisiana has had over 768,000 positive cases and 14,768 deaths.

In a news conference Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he expects there will be another surge this year. 

Neel said people should be cautious about attending any holiday gatherings unless everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated. This is particularly important for individuals with underlying health conditions or vulnerable immune systems, she said. 

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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 years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are 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. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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