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Louisiana reports highest number of daily COVID cases for 4th time in 2 weeks

Ben Depp
National Geographic Society
A coronavirus testing kit.

The state health department reported 17,592 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily report of new cases, on Wednesday, breaking Friday’s record of 14,802 cases.

The state’s positivity rate is 29% for data from the week ending on Jan. 5.

COVID-19 reinfections also were available in Wednesday’s report, a data point not usually included in daily LDH information. Out of 35,819 cases of residents testing positive for COVID-19 multiple times during the pandemic, 2,384 of those reinfections have occurred since the omicron surge.

State officials also pointed out that this number doesn’t include results from home tests, which typically aren’t reported to the state.

LDH also reports 14 new deaths and 1,999 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. The total number of COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic now totals 15,116.

Health officials for weeks have warned that the transmissible variant puts the healthcare system at risk, especially because many hospitals face staffing shortages. During a New Orleans press conference Tuesday, the city health department’s director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said she’s seen hospitals running out of beds and patients being cared for in hallways.

LDH also reports that children under 18 have accounted for one in four cases recently reported to the state. As hospitals near their capacity limits statewide, pediatric hospitals are also struggling to keep up with demand for medical services.

In a Jan. 5 interview with pediatric health officials, Children’s Hospital New Orleans physician-in-chief Dr. Mark Kline said a total of 21 children were hospitalized as of early January, compared to just three in December.

Other pediatric hospitals and centers have reported similar spikes in children hospitalizations, and officials said the patients, either because they’re too young or they’ve opted not to get the shot, are unvaccinated.

Vaccination rates, especially among kids in Louisiana, have remained some of the lowest rates in the nation. The only two state health department regions where vaccination rates are more than half of its eligible residents are Region 1 and 2, which include metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge, respectively.

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 75% of current hospitalizations in Louisiana.

In response to the surging hospitalization numbers statewide and in anticipation of Mardi Gras, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration reinstated the city’s indoor mask mandate “until further notice.” The city also has a vaccine mandate, but there are currently no statewide restrictions in place.

In a Jan. 6 press conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards and Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state’s health officer, they hinted at a “newsworthy” announcement to come Jan. 13 due to the current state of COVID-19 in Louisiana, but didn’t specify further.

Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.
Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.