The state’s health department, on Wednesday, reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations since March — with 6,882 new cases reported over a 24-hour period and 1,993 total hospitalizations.
At a news conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards said that of the 36,873 tests completed over the week, 18 percent were positive. “That tell us that, beyond any doubt, we have tremendous amounts of COVID in our communities,” he said. The state is averaging 49 virus-related deaths a day. Every one of the 64 parishes in Louisiana is currently in the highest infection risk category.
On Wednesday, the LDH reported that Calcasieu Parish had 611 new cases and three deaths since noon the prior day. The parish has a total of 14,772 cases and 294 deaths.
“We are very much on a trajectory right now of increased positivity, increased cases, increased hospitalizations that threaten our ability to deliver life-saving care at our hospitals,” said Edwards.
Though the state’s health care facilities are not in immediate danger of having to resort to crisis care, Edwards said if the state remains on its current trajectory, that will happen.
“I hope, I pray, I appeal to the people of Louisiana to take stock of where we are,” he said.
He urged residents to “engage in mitigation measures religiously” — mask, distance, wash your hands, stay home when you’re sick. “There’s more COVID in our state right now than ever before,” he said. “And we have no reason to believe that we’ve seen the full impact of all the Christmas-related travel and activities and gatherings. And, then coming behind that are those associated with New Years.”
Edwards noted that the mitigation measures he’s asking residents to follow are “not that damn onerous.”
“Put a mask on,” he said. “You owe it to your family, you owe it to your community, you owe it to those health care workers. Even if you’re not concerned about yourself.”
Dr. Joseph Kanter, with the state’s Office of Public Health, reported that of the approximate 15.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines shipped in the United States so far, the state has secured about 273,000 of them.
The CDC reported Monday that Louisiana has only administered 23 percent of its doses compared to the 30 percent national average.
“I want it to be going faster than it is,” Edwards said. “It’s a tremendously complex logistical exercise ... that will improve over time.”
Residents aged 70 and older have been eligible to receive one of 10,500 doses available at 107 pharmacies in Louisiana. Reports from throughout the state indicate waiting lists for the vaccine number in the hundreds. Kanter cautioned that some of the 107 pharmacies who received the first doses might not receive another shipment, but the list of pharmacies and clinics to get next week’s allotment of between 18,000 and 25,000 doses will expand.
To find participating clinics and pharmacies, visit ldh.la.gov beginning next Monday. Edwards said next weeks doses will be distributed to all 64 parishes.
“We’ll make an announcement no later than Monday so people will know where the vaccine is going to be and where they can get appointment,” Edwards said.