Louisiana COVID cases start edging up again with omicron

Louisiana News

Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization, gets its name from a letter in the Greek alphabet. (Photo: Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Months after emerging from a fourth surge of the coronavirus outbreak, Louisiana again is starting to see growing numbers of COVID-19 cases, with the state at risk of another spike as the omicron variant of the virus spreads.

Data released Monday by the Louisiana Department of Health shows the number of new cases of the coronavirus illness reached more than 2,300 since Friday — and more than 4,800 over the past week. That’s more than double the amount of new cases from the prior week.

And the health department warned those numbers are expected to balloon as dozens of cases of the fast-spreading omicron variant have been confirmed in Louisiana. The largest number of cases so far has been in the New Orleans area, but probable cases of the variant have been detected in every region of the state, according to the health department.

“We feel very confident in saying that omicron is now circulating throughout our state, and that the proportion of cases attributable to omicron is likely to increase dramatically over the next few weeks,” State Epidemiologist Theresa Sokol said in a statement.

Still, the number of people hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19 remains low so far, reported at 241 patients Monday. That continues to be among the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since March 2020 and well below the state’s peak of more than 3,000 in August.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and his public health advisers continue to urge people around Louisiana to get immunized against the coronavirus illness and booster shots if eligible, saying that’s the best way to lessen the impact of an infection. Of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 80% are unvaccinated, according to the state health department.

Much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta, and it is expected to become dominant in the U.S. by early next year. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

Louisiana has one of the nation’s lowest immunization rates against the coronavirus. More than 2.3 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to the health department, just under half of Louisiana’s total population.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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