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'We Are In A Really Dangerous Spot' For COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Avegno Says

Patrick Madden

Addressing the public for the first time since the holidays, New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the city is “in a really dangerous spot.”

“We are approaching the highest level of hospitalizations that we’ve seen statewide,” she said.

After echoing the state’s announcement that more than 100 pharmacies would receive roughly 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to begin immunizing residents age 70 and older, Avegno warned, “We cannot see vaccines as our way out and abandon those things that have kept us so safe for the last nine to 10 months.”

Avegno said COVID-19 hospitalizations in Louisiana are approaching the highs the state reached in April, when the number of people hospitalized rose above 2,000.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s website shows 1,891 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals. That’s 200 patients more than were hospitalized two weeks ago.

On Dec. 30, the department reported a record 6,754 new COVID-19 cases statewide. Those cases were found in about 52,000 tests.

In March and April, COVID-19 cases surged in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other urban areas, while case numbers were relatively low in rural regions. This time all but one parish — East Feliciana — are seeing percent positivity rates above 5 percent. Most, with the exception of West Feliciana, are listed on the Department of Health Website as reaching the highest risk level.

In the spring and summer spikes in cases, Louisiana benefitted from extra health care staff traveling to the state to assist hospitals here.

Now, “we don’t have any ancillary staff coming from anywhere else,” Avegno said.

Louisiana’s average intensive care unit occupancy is at 75 percent, just below the national average of 77 percent.

“If we don’t all absolutely double down on the preventative measures that keep people out of hospitals, we might be in a different place in a matter of weeks,” Avegno said.

As always, she urged everyone to wear masks, stay at least six feet apart from each other, and frequently wash their hands.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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