Louisiana breaks record for increase in daily reported COVID cases for 2nd consecutive day
For the second consecutive day on Friday, Louisiana health officials reported the highest daily count of COVID-19 cases ever during the pandemic amid an unprecedented surge from the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The Louisiana Department of Health confirmed 14,802 positive cases out of 70,645 tests statewide. That's a slight increase from Thursday's positive case count of 14,077, which had broken the record for daily case reports in the state at that time.
During a press conference Thursday following the LDH update, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state's medical officer, urged residents to mask up and work remotely if possible as the state battles the most COVID-19 spread its experienced since March 2020.
"There's a very good chance that just about everyone I'm speaking to today has COVID, just got over it or knows someone with COVID today," Edwards said during the briefing.
During the fifth wave, younger Louisiana residents have been the biggest share of positive COVID cases, with 20% of Friday's cases among those 18-29 years old, 19% among 5-17 and 16% 30-39.
These age groups, particularly children, have also remained the least vaccinated in the state.
Officials also reported a climb in hospitalizations, from 1,412 Thursday to 1,521 patients today. A month ago, there were around 200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The rise in hospitalized COVID patients comes at a time when medical centers are overwhelmed due to staffing shortages and residents with mild symptoms are seeking tests at hospitals, according to officials.
The spike also includes pediatric hospitalizations. Children’s Hospital New Orleans has seen a seven-fold increase in patients in just two weeks. A total of 21 children were hospitalized as of Tuesday, compared to just three a few weeks ago, according to Dr. Mark Kline, the hospital’s physician-in-chief.
At Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital in Baton Rouge, eight children were admitted to the hospital overnight for COVID-19 on Saturday into Sunday morning. That’s the greatest number of children the hospital has admitted at one time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials said it’s too soon to tell how severe the omicron surge, which has seen mostly more mild symptoms in adult patients, particularly those who are vaccinated, will be for kids. But they said all of the pediatric patients have been unvaccinated.
The state also reported 16 additional deaths, bringing the total to 15,054 victims. Louisiana surpassed 15,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday.
Data from the Louisiana Department of Health show that unvaccinated people still represent the majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, but to a lesser degree than during earlier phases of the pandemic.
Unvaccinated people (those who haven’t received two doses) accounted for 66% cases from Dec. 23 to Dec. 29, 74% of deaths over the same period, and make up 78% of current hospitalizations in Louisiana.
The uptick in cases and hospitalizations has been met with a low supply of COVID-19 tests, particularly rapid tests. Before the holidays, health officials urged residents to get tested before and after their vacations, and COVID tests have become a recommendation or even requirement for unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals alike to travel, go back to school and other activities.
During Thursday's press conference, Kanter said the state is working on getting more testing supplies, but they're competing with other states right now. If residents have symptoms associated with the coronavirus, Kanter said they should just assume they have it if they can't find a test.
Edwards and Kanter hinted at a "newsworthy" press conference next week, though they wouldn't say if that meant more restrictions were on the horizon for Louisiana.
The governor said he hoped the news next week might include data that show omicron will soon reach its peak, but the models officials have seen hasn't yet suggested that.
"We haven't hit that peak yet," Kanter said. "We're hoping it comes soon."