Though new COVID-19 cases remain “exorbitantly high,” it appears Louisiana has peaked in its fourth surge of COVID-19, according to the state health officer.
Dr. Joe Kanter said the state is trending “in the right direction” during a press conference Thursday, but he cautioned that there “remains a lot of risk right now.”
“In short, we’re going in the right direction and that’s encouraging,” Kanter said. “But the level of COVID out there remains exorbitantly high. There remains a lot of risk right now, although we’re encouraged that it does appear that we’ve peaked in this dangerous fourth surge and our numbers are now going in the right direction.”
After reaching a record of 3,022 COVID-19 hospitalizations in August, the state was reporting 1,825 COVID-19 hospital patients as of Thursday. Kanter said the decrease represents about a 40-percent drop since the mask mandate was reinstated in early August.
Late last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards extended the statewide indoor mask mandate into October for everyone 5 and older.
“We’re thankful that we experienced that [reduction in hospitalizations] because had we not had that 40 percent reduction when Ida hit, it would’ve made responding to the storm that much more complicated,” Kanter said.
Percent positivity went down in the most recent reporting period, falling from 14.1 percent to 11.3 percent.
However, Kanter noted that “all 64 parishes” remain in the highest category of community transmission risk, as set by the Center for Disease Control. And that comes with a significant drop in testing — 45 percent over the last two weeks — due to Hurricane Ida.
“Even with the decrease in testing volume, we still have all 64 parishes in the highest risk category,” Kanter said.
COVID-19 deaths also remain high, with more than 600 reported to the state since Hurricane Ida made landfall.
“The COVID threat remains as real as it ever has,” Kanter said.
During Thursday’s briefing, Edwards said that 42.6 percent of the state’s population — just shy of 2 million people — was fully vaccinated. That translates to better than 50 percent among those who are eligible.
“The numbers are improving, but it is also true we have a very long way to go,” Edwards said.
Community-based testing sites are coming back online following Hurricane Ida, with about 30 in operation in all regions of the state. There are also 20 community vaccine locations, which doesn’t include private vaccine sites such as clinics and hospitals.
For those who missed their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines because of the storm, Kanter said it is “absolutely okay” and that people don’t need to restart their series.
“If you missed your second dose appointment, that’s completely okay and understandable,” Kanter said. “Reschedule it as soon as you can.”