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Delta Is Now The Dominant Coronavirus Variant In Louisiana, Cases On The Rise

Morial Mass Vaccination Event 1
Phoebe Jones
/
WWNO
A vaccinator prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. March 4, 2020.

The highly contagious delta variant is now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Louisiana and is responsible for the state’s recent rise in cases, health officials said Thursday.

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive are all going up for the first time since vaccinations became widely available, state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said in a call with reporters.

Statewide, the rate of positive tests has risen to 4 percent over the previous seven days, up from 3.1 percent the week prior.

“It’s clear right now that COVID is increasing in the state,” Kanter said. “It’s difficult for us to know how bad it’s going to get.”

Cases and the rate of positive COVID-19 tests are on the rise in seven of the state’s nine health regions.

Kanter said he was most troubled by the rise in hospitalizations. About 100 new people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the last two weeks, bringing the state’s active total to 351 people. Thirty-three people are currently on ventilators.

More people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Northshore health region than any other in the state, but Dr. Gina Lagarge, the health department’s director for that region, said it was hard to draw conclusions based on where people are hospitalized.

“We don't just have residents that are from the Northshore in the hospital,” she said. “So I can't really say that there's that strong correlation between a large number of cases in our region, as to the reason why we may have a larger number of hospitalizations.”

The delta variant is a mutation of the original coronavirus strain first identified in India, and it’s believed to be far more contagious than other variants. It’s also more likely to make people sick, including younger people.

Kanter said the good news is that current vaccines are proving effective against the delta strain. The bad news? People who aren’t vaccinated are now at a greater risk of spreading the virus and getting sick and most people in Louisiana aren’t vaccinated.

“Communities that have lower vaccination rates are going to have more cases,” Kanter said.

Nearly all new hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are among unvaccinated people in Louisiana. About 36 percent of people in the state are fully vaccinated — a number that jumps to 49 percent in New Orleans.

Nationally, 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths in June were among people who had not been fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been 1,763 so-called breakthrough cases in Louisiana, where fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 27 people have died, or 0.002 percent of people fully vaccinated, Kanter said.

Officials are hoping the state’s lottery for vaccinated people will boost vaccination rates. Friday is the deadline to get at least one vaccine shot in order to enter the first drawing, which will be announced the following week.

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