NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health paint a clearer picture of the toll COVID-19 is taking on the state.
They indicate Orleans and Jefferson Parishes now lead the country in virus-related deaths.
In Orleans, that amounts to nearly 15 for every 100,000 residents.
Out of all COVID related deaths in Louisiana, only 5-percent were patients without preexisting health conditions. 41-percent had diabetes, 31-percent had chronic kidney disease and 28-percent were obese.
The numbers are surprising to some, but not Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Tulane's School of Public Health Susan Hassig.
“Diabetes is a very common condition in Southeast Louisiana and Louisiana as a whole. We have a high prevalence of diabetes in our populations,” Hassig said.
Hassig says diabetics are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 because of the complications diabetes can cause.
"It's function of how your body processes fuel in the body and sugars," Hassig explained. "So when that system is not functioning properly, all sorts of other systems start going awry. They are disrupted."
The numbers add up to 156-percent, indicating some of those who died had multiple underlying conditions, though there are no specifics.
Hassig says it's vital these individuals take precautions but tells us many with pre-existing conditions still recover from the virus.
“It’s not a death sentence,” Hassig. “A relatively high risk of death is present but it’s not by any means an absolute risk of death.”
Like anyone else trying to stay healthy, Hassig advises those with underlying conditions to heed state warnings, eat a varied diet, get plenty of sleep and water. Plus, she suggests they manage their condition and take all prescribed medications.
"I got something I suffer with, " New Orleans resident Gerrit Jordan said. “It makes me more susceptible and I need to get out and exercise more and stay healthy and I think the choice between the two, you got to get out there and do it.”
Hassig says staying active, especially when your body is used to it, is also important. She says it’s not just for physical health but also for mental health, which she says can impact your immune system.