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People lined up for COVID-19 testing amid a surge in cases; Gov. Edwards, others urge vaccinations

LCMC Health reopened the testing site at West Jefferson Medical Center on Monday
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:07 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - At West Jefferson Medical Center just outside of New Orleans a line of cars waited to get into a COVID-19 testing site. And Rachelle Bold eagerly inched toward the testing site.

“I’m pregnant and I’m just trying to make sure that I’m healthy for my baby,” said Bold.

Bold said she is vaccinated but given the concerning Delta variant she wants to make sure she has not contracted the virus.

“With everything that’s going on these days, I’m just trying to make sure I remain safe and healthy for my child,” said Bold.

LCMC Health which operates West Jefferson Medical Center reopened the drive-thru testing site on Monday amid soaring COVID-19 cases in Louisiana.

Dr. Jeffrey Elder is the medical director for emergency management at LCMC Health and a practicing emergency medicine physician.

“For us, at LCMC we’ve seen our numbers go from the single digits at the end of June to now over a hundred patients, inpatient at our hospitals across our six-hospital system, and over 90% of the people that are admitted for COVID are unvaccinated individuals,” said Elder. “I think that’s what the key message is here, that people who are vaccinated are typically not ending up in the hospital with COVID. It’s the unvaccinated people who are getting severely ill, requiring oxygen, requiring mechanical ventilation that we’re seeing in our hospitals.”

He said the testing is important for virus surveillance and also helps individuals know if they are positive for the virus.

“It tells us what’s going on in the community, so it gives us that positivity rate to say this is what we’re seeing across the community,” said Elder. “And so it takes someone who thinks well maybe this is just a little cold or I have just a runny nose and it lets them know that hey, they now have COVID and they’re going to, you know, spread this to people if they’re around them, so then it makes it easier for them to ultimately, you know, quarantine or isolate and stay away from other people now that they’re ill,” said Elder.

Governor John Bel Edwards remains concerned about the explosive increase in cases in the state. The Louisiana Department of Health reported 7,592 new COVID-19 cases since Friday.

“This surge really manifested itself about three weeks ago and the very precipitous increases in our counts have everybody very, very nervous about where this surge may top out and so, please do what you can, stay safe, let’s wear masks indoors and let’s make sure that we’re getting tested but more than anything else please get vaccinated,” Edwards said Monday.

Elder agrees masks should be worn.

“None of us want to be here again but I promise you I’d much rather wear a mask than end up, you know, taking care of more patients in the Emergency Department like I did this weekend with COVID and so I just ask people now if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” said Elder.

Bold is all for wearing masks.

“I just pray that everyone continues to wear their mask, I’m doing an interview right now but I’m a firm believer in the mask,” said Bold.

And Elder and other health care professionals say no one should let their guard down because the Delta variant should be taken seriously as it spreads rapidly.

“This new variant is so easily transmissible. It’s about twice as transmittable as the initial COVID virus,” said Elder.

Edwards thinks low vaccination rates are fueling the soaring number of coronavirus cases.

“We have an absolute perfect storm going on in Louisiana today, nowhere near enough people are vaccinated,” said Edwards. “At the end of the day, this surge is on us because we did not adequately take advantage of the time that we had since December the 12th when we administered the very first injection of a vaccine up until this surge started about three weeks, but it’s not too late,” he said.

He said vaccines are readily available in Louisiana.

“We’ve got to come together because we are stressing our health care delivery system again to unacceptable levels,” said Edwards.

Given the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, Elder was asked if there is a lot of virus swirling in Louisiana communities. “Yes, there is, we’re a hotspot again,” Elder stated.

And that has possible consequences for the entire community.

“As the virus count elevates and we see more virus in the community we’re going to see more breakthrough infections unfortunately in vaccinated individuals and that’s just a numbers game based on percentages, you know, no vaccine is a 100%. The vaccines we have are extremely, extremely effective but we’ll have some of these breakthroughs,” said Elder.

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