‘This should be a warning sign’: 19 cases of delta variant confirmed in Louisiana


State health officials believe it will be the dominant variant in a matter of weeks.

FILE – This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical coronavirus particles from what was believed to be the first U.S. case of COVID-19. A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials. (C.S. Goldsmith, A. Tamin/CDC via AP)

ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. (WDSU) — Louisiana’s top health official told WDSU that he believes the delta variant will be the dominant strain in the state within one month.

Dr. Joseph Kanter said to date, 19 cases of the highly-contagious variant have been confirmed in the state.

“We sequence only a very small subset,” Kanter said. “So when you have identified 19, you invariably have many many more out there and the best estimate is about 25 percent (of all cases).”

He said the CDC predicts the variant is doubling in prevalence every two to three weeks.

“The message to people at home really is, if you’ve not yet chosen to get vaccinated, this should be a warning sign to you,” Kanter said. “This variant is dangerous.”

Kanter told WDSU that communities with low vaccination rates are most at risk.

“I think what’s going to happen is there are going to be outbreaks among unvaccinated communities,” Kanter said. “If it’s your family that gets sick … that’s a tragedy for you.”

The delta variant is concerning to officials in St. Bernard Parish where just under 31% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health. For comparison, almost 47% of the population in neighboring Orleans Parish is fully vaccinated.

To boost the numbers in St. Bernard Parish, local leaders are hosting a series of community-based vaccination events.

“It seems to work well with some of the populations, but some people just aren’t that motivated right now,” said John Rahaim, director of homeland security and emergency preparedness for the parish. “If you have to give somebody something to come out, then I don’t think they really want it.”

Regardless, the parish is offering certain incentives.

On Wednesday, Pirogue Whiskey Bar in Arabi will host a “shot for shot” event from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. All attendees who get vaccinated will receive either a free beer, glass of wine or a shot. There will also be live music starting at 6 p.m.

“The fact that people aren’t getting vaccinated is insane to me,” said Muriel Altikriti, co-owner of the bar. “Go get your vaccine. It makes it easier for everybody.”

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