Health officials worry about uptick as New Orleans eases restrictions

Health officials face concerns as restrictions ease

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As New Orleans eases restrictions, some health officials worry it won’t be long before the city sees another uptick in COVID-19 cases. Their concerns come as the number of new cases in the United States starts to rise again.

“If you look at the map in the U.S. what’s happening is exactly what we expected is the whole northern part of the U.S., transmission is on the upswing,” said Dr. Chris Murray, Director of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the University of Washington.

The United States surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases before the weekend, and across the country, new case counts are soaring, especially in rural areas that have been largely untouched in the mid-west.

“I want you all to be aware that Wisconsin is currently one of our red states. Meaning, your positivity rates are over 10 percent and going in the wrong direction. Cases are in the red, going in the wrong direction,” said Jerome Adams, United States Surgeon General.

“These states, the mid-west now, every state that has just disregarded the laws of nature have seen spikes,” said Dr. Eric Griggs, health educator.

According to the most recent numbers from the New Orleans Department of Health, over the past week, Orleans Parish is averaging just 47 new cases a day with an average of 4000 tests given per day, and only one new death.

The state department of health shows the positivity rate has continued dropping in New Orleans, down 21 percent as of Oct. 7. But as the city enters Phase 3.2 now and potentially Phase 3.3 by Halloween, history shows those numbers may not hold up.

“It’s amazing talking in terms of history, given we’ve only been in this for a few months but things are changing so much week to week,” Dr. Griggs said.

“The issue we are going into the fall-winter season, we do have things opening up. We have kids now that are going to be in schools, and every year the kids are the general rule of where we’re going to get the spreaders of the flus and the respiratory viruses,”

Health educator Dr. Eric Griggs says it’s because of New Orleans keeping restrictions in place longer than we’ve seen consistent low numbers, but keeping them down during cold and flu season to go along with the pandemic will be near impossible, especially after what was a record-breaking deadly flu season just last winter.

“In the United States, 80,000 thousand people died from the flu, which is the highest it’s been in 40 years. Normally, it’s anywhere from 36 to 50,000,” Dr. Griggs. “The problem is COVID-19 hit and we, like you said, kind of missed that message.”

In the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed, Griggs says many countries just experienced record low numbers for flu season as a result of mask wearing and social distancing, so keeping those habits up no matter what phase we’re in will go a long way.

“Because they were protected. You’re keeping your respiratory droplets to yourself. It is the same stuff we’ve been trying to get people to do for years and years. Wash your hands, keep your hands and your bugs to yourself, cover your mouth, well now we’re saying wear a mask,” Griggs said.

New Orleans entered Phase 3.2 on Saturday. According to the city’s timeline and depending on the COVID case numbers, New Orleans could enter Phase 3.3 as early as Oct. 31.

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