BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than 1,000 people are hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19, the most since early February when cases were declining, the state’s health department said Friday.
The latest figures also showed 3,127 new confirmed and likely cases of the coronavirus illness.
Soaring hospitalizations of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are putting medical staffs in Louisiana under stress for a fourth time, as state officials continue the plea for people to get the shots that can prevent the disease.
The highly contagious delta variant has become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Louisiana and around the country. Gov. John Bel Edwards prepared to talk about the latest surge Friday afternoon.
Louisiana has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“Our staff is feeling stretched. Our staff is also as you can imagine disheartened that we are going through this not one, two, three, but four times,” said Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Medical Director of Infection Prevention for the 40-hospital Ochsner Health system. “This time it is even harder because we know that this is largely preventable.”
In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued an advisory this week “strongly recommending” that people wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, to avoid spreading the disease. Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins did the same Friday, encouraging people indoors to wear a face covering because he said two of every three people in his area are unvaccinated.
“We cannot afford to lose one more person, and we cannot afford to go into another shutdown,” Perkins said at an event with LSU Health Shreveport to encourage vaccinations.
Dr. John Vanchiere, director of the COVID-19 Strike Team at LSU Health Shreveport, talked about the rising rates of children and adults in the hospital with the coronavirus illness, as he urged people to get the widely available shots.
“Despite the myths that are promulgated in some of the social media, our vaccines do not impact fertility. Our vaccines don’t have magnets in them or chips in them that are tracking you. And they are safe,” he said. “Our vaccines have been saving lives every day.”
But it was unclear how many would take the masking advice. Many were going without face coverings Thursday, the day after Cantrell issued a mask advisory, in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
At Rendezvous Linen and Lace, store owner Kichin Mirpuri was unmasked.
“I’m vaccinated. And I keep clean all the time,” he said.
Louisiana is holding a weekly lottery this summer to try to drum up interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, with $2.3 million in cash prizes and scholarships to be awarded. The second round of winners were announced Friday: 65-year-old Edwina Jones, of Marrero, won $100,000 in cash while 14-year-old Andrew Homan, of Slidell, received a $100,000 college scholarship.