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Infectious disease experts not shocked by surge in COVID-19 cases; more people seek vaccine appointments

Hospitalizations and deaths are increasing as the Delta variants takes hold
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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An unidentifiable patient receives hospital care.
An unidentifiable patient receives hospital care.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As Louisiana experiences a fourth surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are going up and health care professionals are not shocked by what is happening given the large number of people who remain unvaccinated as the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold.

The Louisiana Department reported 913 hospitalizations on Thursday. The day before the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 infection was 844.

Dr. Fred Lopez is an LSU Health infectious diseases expert.

“Yes, we are starting to see more and more people being admitted into the hospital. We’re also starting to see more deaths alongside the increased number of cases being diagnosed and most of these cases are in people who are not vaccinated,” said Lopez.

Louisiana’s rate for fully vaccinated people is less than 40% as the more contagious Delta variant is swirling in communities.

Lopez said that is an equation for more people getting the virus.

“What we do know is that it is much more transmissible, more contagious in other words than previous versions of the virus and that combination with large numbers of unvaccinated individuals in certain communities is going to translate into what we’re seeing now in the state of Louisiana which is a fourth surge,” said Lopez.

It appears more people are taking note of the soaring COVID-19 case numbers.

Dr. Jeffrey Elder, Medical Director for Emergency Management at LCMC Health says they are getting more inquiries about vaccine appointments.

“We’re fortunate this week to see an increase in the amount of calls we had to make vaccine appointments. You know we were seeing roughly a hundred a day, 120 a day prior to this week now we’re seeing over 200 a day, each day this week so we’ve really doubled the amount of people per day looking for a vaccine,” said Elder.

Elder spoke about what he is seeing in the hospital.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more cases, we’re seeing more people come into the hospital, sick with COVID requiring to be admitted to the hospital, to be on oxygen and that’s something we just, we don’t want to see,” said Elder. “While we are seeing some breakthrough cases of people who have been vaccinated these are very mild cases and these people are not being admitted to the hospital and that’s what key here. The only people we’re really seeing in the hospital are unvaccinated individuals who are getting critically ill with COVID.”

Given the rate of vaccination in the state and in many parts of the Deep South, more coronavirus cases were expected.

“It’s not surprising because we have so many pockets of unvaccinated individuals and we have a variant strain that is more easily transmissible than any prior strain,” said Lopez.

Lopez was asked if it is too soon to say whether the Delta variant is more deadly.

“We don’t whether it causes more severe disease or not. There were some early reports showing increased numbers of hospitalizations but it’s unclear whether that was a reflection of the fact that there were more cases which would result in more hospitalizations,” Lopez replied.

Loyola and Xavier universities both tweeted that the wearing of masks will be required on campus both indoors and outside.

And the White House is reportedly discussing whether there should be revised mask guidance even for vaccinated people.

“I would say get vaccinated, but in the meantime, while we’re seeing this surge and there’s more disease in the community I think, you know, wearing masks indoors for everyone is the way to go,” said Elder.

Lopez said it has been shown that masks work to decrease the spread of the virus.

“I think we know that the masks work, we know that social distancing and physical distancing work,” said Lopez. New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell advises people indoors to wear masks. Some areas have gone further in terms of masking.

“Go to Los Angeles County, they have a mask mandate for individuals indoors because of increasing numbers of cases being reported there and so I think we’re going to be hearing more and more as the cases increase not just in Louisiana but all over the United States for mask recommendations, for physical distancing,” said Lopez.

At Tivoli Place on St. Charles Avenue Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon partnered with H&W Drug Store to vaccinate 17 people on Thursday.

Pharmacist Timothy Smith discussed the outreach to the community.

“Today we gave the second dose of Moderna vaccine. We gave the first dose in June. Today was the second scheduled for some of the patients at Tivoli Place and also some of the people that just walked in and coming up getting the shot for the first time,” said Smith. “We got to reach the patients where they are.”

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