COVID hospitalizations rise in SWLA as ‘stealth variant’ spikes

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 6:13 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Southwest Louisiana health officials say the fast spreading COVID-19 variant BA.5 is the culprit for the dramatic uptick in positive cases.

While local officials grapple with the so-called “stealth variant,” they’re bracing for what’s around the corner.

Health officials tell 7News that they hope to have variant-specific vaccination available to the public by this fall. They expect the new immunization will help better protect us from developing COVID in the first place.

The new vaccination can’t come soon enough as the BA.5 variant is evading both natural and vaccination immunity.

To say that BA.5 is highly contagious is an understatement. Even while sitting or standing outside in the stagnant heat or positioned downwind from someone who is positive, your risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher than ever before.

Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, SWLA’s Medical Director, says most symptoms derived from the fast-spreading BA.5 are like those in previous dominant strains and are mild, but officials don’t know for sure how well the vaccines and boosters protect us from the variant.

Acadiana Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski explained that the virus can cause various health complications.

“There’s a wide range of things that COVID can cause quite frankly, and I think we’re all trying to understand that spectrum of disease. So, absolutely we’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations and we’re watching that closely,” Dr. Stefanski said.

The BA.5 spike is also reflected in the rising Southwest Louisiana hospitalizations.

In just two months, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in our area has increased by 1,000 percent from three to 33 cases.

Those hospitalizations include patients who contracted the virus after initially being admitted to the hospital for another medical issue.

Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh has been keeping a watchful eye on the current case load and said things can rapidly change at any time.

“In comparison to the Delta surge we had 180 plus people just in this region hospitalized so we are nowhere near that at this moment and time which is wonderful. Now are we heading there? I don’t know at this time,” she said.

Health officials are not ruling out the possibility of another surge at the start of school year or even this fall.

Additionally, health officials are watching the latest BA2.75 variant that’s rising in the United Kingdom. The course of viruses overseas gives them a glimpse of what to expect here in the United States and thus Louisiana.

If you’re over the age of 50 and if you have any underlying health conditions or are immune deficient, you’re at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

Now more than ever, and especially over the next two months, health officials are urging people to mask up preferably with a quality mask like an N-95, and stay up to date with vaccinations and boosters.

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