Governor John Bel Edwards held a press conference July 16 to announce the increasing presence of the Delta variant of COVID-19. In two weeks prior to the conference, COVID infections rose 167 percent. In that same time frame, 245 more people were hospitalized in Louisiana due to COVID. Before this turn, infections had been decreasing in the wake of the vaccine, but Louisiana is now seeing a rise again.
Settings where the 35 new COVID outbreaks occurred were identified as camps, child day care, religious services and restaurants. “We know that the Delta variant is more transmissible and it also has the potential to make those who contract it, much sicker.” Gov. Edwards stated.
Two expert physicians were present and discussed the uptick in cases caused by the new variant. Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist from Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, highlighted major differences from last year’s outbreak to the Delta variant including, increased risk for pregnant women and babies, younger populations being affected, and infections now being largely preventable.
O’Neal explained that the Delta variant hides in the body and can spread before our immune system is triggered. Vaccinated individuals are equipped with antibodies that fight it and have much better odds of only experiencing mild symptoms.
One of the three approved vaccines make the risk much lower, if they’re taken. While there is still no approved vaccination for children under the age of 12, higher vaccination rates in the adult population will slow the transmission.
However, Louisiana still has low vaccination rates. The governor referred to the current vaccination rates as “woefully inadequate.”
Dr. O’Neal urged Louisiana residents to recognize the severity of this issue, “If you don’t choose the vaccine, you’re choosing death.” Currently, 59 percent of new COVID cases in Louisiana are the Delta variant. Over 80 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated for transmission to slow. As of July 15, 50 percent of all Louisiana adults had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Gov. Edwards stated, “That’s not high enough. There’s not enough immunity across the state and the various communities that comprise our state to ward off transmission, and that’s what we are seeing today.”
Gov. Edwards pointed to nursing homes for hope to combat this current fourth spike of COVID-19. Nursing home residents have three of the major traits of high-risk COVID patients: co-morbid health conditions, elderly age and live in a collective setting. However, since nursing homes were targeted for vaccination efforts and over 85% of nursing home residents in state have been vaccinated, the spike is not existent in those populations.
“People are still getting sick, people are still being hospitalized, people are still dying and it is more than 90 percent preventable,” said Gov. Edwards. He added, “There’s almost 1.7 million Louisianans who have made the right decision to be vaccinated and I thank them, but it’s not enough.”