Louisiana notched a new single-day record for COVID-19 infections Thursday, reporting more than 14,000 additional cases, as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to rip across the state at an unprecedented clip with no sign yet of slowing down.
Warning that the risk of getting infected with coronavirus has never been greater, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday urged Louisianans to mask up and get vaccinated but stopped short of issuing any mitigation measures to slow the virus spread.
"Theres a very good chance that just about everyone Im speaking to today has COVID, just got over it or knows someone with COVID, Edwards said.
This week marked the start of a new semester for Louisianas schoolchildren, and although the states Office of Public Health has recommended universal masking in K-12 classrooms, some school districts arent taking the advice.
Echoing State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley, the governor said its up to local school districts to decide whether masks are appropriate, pointing out that unlike earlier phases of the pandemic, vaccines are now available for kids aged 5 and up.
Quite frankly, I wish more school districts I wish all of them would take the recommendations, Edwards said. But at this point in time, Im not going to impose that mandate from my position as governor.
With cases skyrocketing, the number of patients getting admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 is also increasing, though a smaller percentage of those infected are requiring hospitalization during this wave than previous surges, a sign that the virus is causing milder illness, said Dr. Joe Kanter, the states top public health official.
There were 1,412 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Louisiana as of Wednesday, increasing by 125 patients since the day before, according to the latest Health Department data. The use of ventilators increased by 12 patients from the day before with a total of 60 patients requiring the intervention.
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In another sign that the virus is less deadly, between four and five percent of patients are requiring mechanical ventilation in this latest surge, a rate far lower than previous waves, when the intervention was needed for 15 to 20 percent of patients, Kanter said.
Though there are far more infections during this wave, hospitalizations are rising at the same rate as that seen during this summer's delta wave, which culminated in a pandemic peak of 3,022 patients in mid-August.Still, if enough people are infected, patients may still reach a number that may overwhelm hospitals, which are short staffed due to burnout and infections among workers.
"It is simple math: even if it is less virulent, and it is, if many more people on an order of magnitude that were seeing are getting infected, then youre still putting enormous demand on the health care delivery system," Edwards said.
Louisiana counted 14,077 confirmed and probable cases in Thursday's report. Of more than 230,000 tests reported over the last seven days, 46,766 returned positive results, a positivity rate of more than 20 percent, the state Health Department reported.
The new variant is also causing more reinfections, Edwards said. In November, 563 people contracted the virus again after a previous infection. That number jumped to 11,278 reinfections in December, when the omicron variant took over.
The sheer prevalence of COVID-19 in Louisiana is unprecedented, Kanter said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes a community as being at the highest risk of transmission when theres over 100 cases per 100,000 people. Louisiana is currently at 1,030 infections per 100,000 people.
"This surge came on very quickly. The hope and expectation is that it will subside very quickly," Kanter said. "We haven't hit that peak yet. We're hoping it comes soon."
COVID infections hit another daily record in Louisiana as hospitalizations rise - The Advocate
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