New Orleans’ COVID-19 percent positivity rate jumped from just above 1 percent last week to 2.2 percent this week — or an average of around 60 cases per day. That’s got New Orleans Health Director Jennifer Avegno worried.
At a press conference on Friday, Avegno said the city would like the average number of cases per day to stay under 50. She said the city is prepared to take tough measures if cases continue to rise.
“If we continue to see our percent positivity, our cases rise, our hospitalizations start to tick up, then it’s very likely that we will have to impose some restrictions, and nobody wants to go back,” Avegno said.
This comes just days after Avegno and Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the city’s move into Phase 3.3, allowing bars and breweries to welcome guests inside at 25 percent capacity and allowing an increase in attendees at both indoor and outdoor events.
Avegno acknowledged that New Orleans is doing much better than other parts of the country and the state, but said “we really don’t have a lot of time to get this under control.”
She said that while universities have seen an uptick in cases since Halloween, the majority of cases are coming from residents “letting their guards down.”
With Thanksgiving coming up, bringing with it plans to visit friends and family, Avegno urged residents to wear masks, wash their hands, and social-distance.
“You should act as if everybody outside your house has COVID,” Avegno said.
On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 2,812 new cases — the largest single-day increase since August. The department also reported another 680 probable cases identified by antigen tests, a new addition to the state’s coronavirus tracking dashboard.
While antigen tests are slightly less accurate than the “gold-standard” PCR tests, Dr. Joseph Kanter of the Office of Public Health said anyone who receives a positive diagnosis from an antigen test should behave as if they have COVID-19.
Kanter cautioned people against getting “bogged down” in the subtle differences between testing types when public health metrics are all indicating that the coronavirus is getting worse.
“You can measure wind speed by miles per hour or kilometers, but it’s blowing pretty hard and it’s picking up,” Kanter said. “Across the board, every region of the state we are seeing the number of new cases day-by-day increase.”
During his Friday media briefing, Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed a hesitance to impose stricter statewide coronavirus restrictions but implored Louisianans to do a better job of complying with the coronavirus mitigation measures that are already in place.
He vowed to intervene if increases in cases and hospitalizations jeopardize healthcare capacity. Current COVID-related hospitalizations are less than half of their peaks in July and April.
Edwards credited the recent uptick in cases to a “loss of focus” around Halloween and people being less likely to wear masks and maintain safe social distance during informal, small-scale gatherings.
He also blamed Republican members of the state House of Representatives and Attorney General Jeff Landry for sowing confusion among the public by supporting a petition that would have forced Edwards to lift his statewide mask mandate and business restrictions.
On Thursday, a Baton Rouge judge declared that petition null and void and ruled that the state law that outlined the petition process is unconstitutional.