Health leaders push for testing and vaccination as Delta variant takes over New Orleans area

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 9:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local health leaders warn the highly contagious delta variant is swiftly taking hold across our area in the unvaccinated population.

“The Delta variant, the percentage of cases it makes up doubles every week, so we are assuming it makes up about 25 percent of our cases because that seems to be the national average, but that’s probably four weeks old, so by the time I’m talking to you today the Delta variant is probably the dominant variant,” Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department said.

The only way to truly nail down how much this doubly infectious variant is taking hold in a timely manner is through local genetic sequencing. Avegno says we previously had to send tests off to the CDC for sequencing. However, for local sequencing to work, it requires people to go get tested.

“The last week of data, over half of all the new positives were in people aged 20 to 40 and so we know that that is the age group that is not the highest in being vaccinated,” Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, the System Medical Director of Hospital Quality at Ochsner Health said.

Kemmerly says they are starting to see more people getting tested compared to the last few weeks when it was way down.

Oschner and LSU were awarded a federal grant to team up and sequence in real-time to get variant results in a matter of days.

“Down the line, if different variants emerge with this program in place, we’ll have the ability to be on the forefront and identifying which areas are in our community before they actually become widespread and look for mutations within the variants,” Kemmerly said.

Dr. Lucio Miele told FOX 8, Monday, about how his LSU lab was able to pinpoint a case of the new delta-plus variant in the Greater New Orleans area.

While we don’t know how many cases of Delta-Plus are out there quite yet, Dr. Avegno says the original Delta variant forced several day camps and businesses to close their doors.

“A lot of public health experts predict mini surges in the fall and winter and that’s a reasonable assumption,” Avegno said.

However, Avegno says new cases of hospitalizations and deaths remain low right now in Orleans Parish. Vulnerable seniors are around 80 percent vaccinated, although that 18 to 40 age range is still only about 50 percent.

Oschner says as of Tuesday morning they had 92 COVID patients across the health system, which spans the state, up from between 50 to 60 in previous weeks.

Kemmerly says they are also seeing an uptick in emergency and convalescent plasma treatment areas.

“Over 99 percent of the people that are in our hospitals have not been vaccinated,” Kemmerly said. “Chances are, if you get hospitalized and you’ve been vaccinated if there’s a breakthrough case requiring hospitalization, you’re going to survive unlike the COVID of a year ago.”

Kemmerly and Avegno both say there have been a few breakthrough cases in people who have been vaccinated because the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but not many, and no one has died or become seriously ill.

Kemmerly also said the days of lines of cars at mass vaccination sites are definitely over. Now Ochsner is focusing on bringing clinics to people where they work, live, and play. Most of the creative incentives like a shot for a shot have worn their welcome as well.

To date, Ochsner Health has administered 465,886 doses of vaccine. Click HERE to find information on the vaccines and a clinic near you.

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