Gov. John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards puts on a face mask.

With the state in the midst of its fourth surge of the coronavirus, health officials are urging all citizens to take action — in the form of vaccinations and mitigation measures.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards, State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter, and Dr. Catherine O’Neal of Our Lady of the Lake pleaded with the public to help “slow the spread” as new COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations have risen greatly in recent weeks.

The recent surge is mostly attributable to the Delta variant, which officials say is more transmissible and can make those who contact it much sicker. Kanter said the Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the country and Louisiana.

But because administered vaccines continue to lag in Louisiana — which ranks near the bottom nationally in vaccination rates — the number of new cases diagnosed each day has been increasing for several weeks straight.

“Make no mistake, we are embarking on a surge,” Kanter said.

The increases are in all regions of the state, Edwards said, adding that “misinformation is costing lives” as more than 90 percent of those in hospitals with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“We are facing a very serious situation,” Edwards said.

Edwards and others continued their cry for people to get vaccinated, something roughly 1,686,000 in Louisiana have done, or around 36.6 percent of the state.

Despite lagging vaccinations and rising cases, Edwards said he is not yet considering reimposing any restrictions to slow the spread. In May, the governor lifted most of the remaining restrictions — including the highly-debated mask mandate — as COVID-19 numbers improved.

Edwards said his focus now is on getting more people vaccinated, though he noted that mitigation measures have been proven to work.

“I’m hopeful that as people see this information and understand where we’re headed, not just as a state but as a country, that they will make the decision to be vaccinated,” Edwards said. “At the moment, I am not considering reimposing any mitigation measures or mandates. Now we will obviously continue to look over the numbers over time, but we’re just not there yet.”

Health officials released the following guidance for individuals in Louisiana:

-- If you are not yet fully vaccinated, health officials say you should mask and distance yourself in public settings — particularly indoors — for your safety and for the safety of those around you.

-- If you are fully vaccinated, health officials say “you have very good, but not absolute protection.” The risk, while relatively small, will increase as the amount of COVID-19 circulating in your community increases. Officials say masking and distancing particularly when indoors “will increase your safety should you desire extra protection.”

-- If you are at increased risk for complications of COVID-19 by virtue of advanced age or underlying medical condition or have a member of your household family unit who is, officials “strongly” recommend you consider masking and distancing when indoors and/or in close proximity to others for added protection.

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