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Hospitalizations slowing down; vaccination rates remain low in Louisiana

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 4:27 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The number of hospitalized patients dropped for the first time in weeks in Louisiana, standing at 2,838 patients. Nearly 91% of those patients are not vaccinated, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

While there may be fewer COVID patients in the hospital, health professionals say we’re not out of the woods just yet. Doctors are hopeful this is a sign things will get better, especially as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve seen a little bit of an uptick and then a downtick here and there but staying pretty plateaued at that number. Certainly haven’t seen a decline yet but we’re hoping that’s in our near future,” said Allison Guste, AVP of Clinical and Operational Excellence at LCMC Health.

She said the ICU remains busy caring for critically ill COVID patients, but the intake of cases has slowed down. Just like at LSU Health.

“Even though the intake cases are slowed, we are still stuck with the accumulation of critically ill that have, in many cases, been here since the Delta wave began,” said Dr. Kyle Happel, pulmonary and critical care section of LSU Health. “Critical care for COVID consumes tremendous healthcare resources and almost certainly affects care of the non-COVD patients.”

Administering the vaccine to patients in the hospital before they are discharged is something that has changed since the release of the vaccine.

“Prior to this Delta variant, we had started to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to our discharged patients in the hospital as long as their acute illness period was really over,” said Guste, who adds the vaccine is the key to preventing serious illness and staying out of the hospital.

Pharmacist Vinnie Polizzi says people are coming to his pharmacy for the vaccine shortly after recovering from the virus.

“We have seen an uptick in people coming in for their first vaccine which is a really good sign,” he said.

As long as that person is symptom-free, he said it’s a good time to get a vaccine.

“Just reassure them that it’s safe. It’s gonna do what it’s supposed to do and it’s gonna lessen your chances of going to the hospital and dealing with more serious issues,” he says.

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“Most health care providers are also frustrated at the net effect of our community’s relatively low vaccination rate: avoidable critical illness and, in many cases, avoidable death,” said Dr. Happel.

While health professionals say up to 10 days after COVID recovery before receiving the vaccine, people should wait for at least 90 days after receiving antibody infusion.

“The 90-day wait is for patients that get the monoclonal antibodies. The fear there is that the infused monoclonal antibodies will ‘soak up’ the vaccine-generated spike protein and your immune system won’t have the chance to recognize spike protein and then make antibodies or T cells,” he said.

“If you had COVID-19 at home and you have reached that recovery period or that 10 day period or 24-hour symptom-free, there’s really no reason to wait any longer,” said Guste.

Health officials at St. Tammany Health System said patient intake has slowed.

“We have 89 COVID-19 patients in our care, and we are cautiously optimistic to finally see that number below 90, particularly after hitting 114 on Aug. 9. We are still seeing about half our inpatients here for COVID-19, just short of 90% of them unvaccinated. They’re younger too—two-thirds are 10 to 64 years old,” said Melissa Hodgson, AVP of Communication at St. Tammany Health.

Ochsner Health officials are expected to provide an update tomorrow afternoon.

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