No New Statewide Mitigation Measures In Spite of Record-Breaking Surge

Photo courtesy Gov. John Bel Edwards official Facebook

On Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards continued to encourage residents to wear a mask indoors and out, social distance, and work from home if possible as cases continue to surge across Louisiana. Over the last several weeks, the state has broken the single-day pandemic record four times. On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reported 17,592 new cases.

In addition, it’s become clear that natural immunity is not an effective prevention method, Edwards said. There were over 2,000 new reinfections across the state, and beginning next week the LDH will begin adding reinfections to the new case counts. Getting fully vaccinated and getting boosted is the best way to protect yourself from the virus, including the Omicron variant.

Edwards also expressed concern that there are currently 2,081 hospitalizations across Louisiana, including a number of children. “We know that the more people that end up in the hospital, the tougher things are going to be for our state,” Edwards said. “It’s not like when you have a pandemic with COVID you don’t also have other things happening, such as the flu, auto accidents, strokes, heart attacks.”

Earlier on Thursday morning, President Joe Biden announced that US military doctors will be deployed to four states in order to help alleviate pressure on the nation’s hospital systems. Louisiana was not one of those states.

“[Omicron] is putting a real strain on our healthcare delivery system,” Edwards noted.

“The experience this past week has been yet another week of explosive growth,” Said State Health Office Dr. Joseph Kanter, noting that there has been no tangible sign that the Omicron surge is nearing a peak. According to the LDH, Louisiana is currently averaging 1,720 new cases per 100,000 residents per week. The CDC places a community in the highest risk category at 100 cases per 100,000 residents per week. Louisiana currently has a 28.6% positivity rate. “When you have a percent positivity this high, you’re still under-testing,” Dr. Kantor noted.

Record numbers of children have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant. Edwards noted that 92 children were admitted the week of Jan. 2 – more than were hospitalized during the height of the Delta surge. “People who think this is harmless for children, it’s clearly not.”

“At this point, I don’t expect any changes to mitigation measures,” before his press conference next week to extend the pandemic State of Emergency Edwards said, noting that the number of hospitalizations is guiding his decisions on things like reinstating mask mandates and other mitigation measures. Edwards also noted that hospital directors have not asked him to reinstate a mask mandate.

Regardless of the Governor’s decision, Mayor LaToya Cantrell chose to reinstate New Orleans’ mask mandate as of Wednesday.

“Health care systems and schools — the bedrock of any thriving community — are once again stretched to the brink by this pandemic, and right now, everyone in our community feels its impact,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans Health Department. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve successfully implemented layered mitigation measures — masking, testing, and vaccinations — to protect us through COVID-19 surges and minimize loss of health, life, and business. As we go about our daily lives and anticipate welcoming large crowds to the City in the coming weeks, we must implement all of these measures to remain safe and healthy.”

In addition, the New Orleans Health Department will be distributing N95 masks Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations while supplies last:

  • Main Library, 219 Loyola Ave.
  • Algiers Regional Library, 3014 Holiday Drive
  • East New Orleans Regional Library, 5641 Read Blvd.
  • Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, 5120 St. Charles Ave.
  • Robert E. Smith Library, 6301 Canal Blvd.
  • Norman Mayer Library, 3001 Gentilly Blvd.
  • Hubbell Library, 725 Pelican Ave.

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