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Latest COVID surge knocking at Louisiana’s door; health officials urge indoor masking

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 4:09 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Top health officials in Louisiana are sounding a warning heading into the holidays.

In a last-minute Zoom to discuss the Omicron variant, officials from the state’s department of health urged indoor masking, vaccinations, and boosters to keep the latest COVID-19 surge at bay.

The state’s epidemiologist, Theresa Sokol, says Omicron will be the dominant strain in Louisiana soon. The state is starting to see growing numbers of COVID-19 cases, at risk of another spike as the omicron variant of the virus spreads.

Data released Monday by the Louisiana Department of Health shows the number of new cases of the coronavirus illness reached more than 2,300 since Friday — and more than 4,800 over the past week. That’s more than double the amount of new cases from the prior week.

Officials warned those numbers are expected to balloon.

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The largest number of cases so far has been in the New Orleans area, but probable cases of the variant have been detected in every region of the state, according to the health department.

The number of people hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19 remains low so far, reported at 241 patients Monday. That continues to be among the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since March 2020 and well below the state’s peak of more than 3,000 in August.

“We feel very confident in saying that omicron is now circulating throughout our state, and that the proportion of cases attributable to omicron is likely to increase dramatically over the next few weeks,” Sokol said in a statement.

Dr. Catherine O’Neal, the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake, says Louisiana is at the beginning of the latest surge.

“All the telltale signs are there,” she said via Zoom.

Health officials urged Louisianans to start wearing masks again in public indoor spaces, saying that will be the quickest way to help stop the latest surge.

Louisiana has one of the nation’s lowest immunization rates against the coronavirus. More than 2.3 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to the health department, just under half of Louisiana’s total population. Of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 80% are unvaccinated, according to the state health department.

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The Associated Press’ Melinda Deslatte contributed to this report.

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