There are 1,602 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Louisiana as of Dec. 17, just barely topping a previous peak of 1,600 on July 24 and 27.
This comes as health officials urge people to celebrate their Christmas and other end-of-year holidays with their immediate family members only and to abstain from unnecessary travel to help flatten this third spike of the virus.
Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, medical director of infection control and prevention at Ochsner Health, in a recent interview attributed the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson to Thanksgiving gatherings.
The state hospitals are currently at 76 percent capacity. A New York Times graphic shows that intensive care units in several hospitals in Louisiana and neighboring states are at 100 percent capacity.
New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jenniver Avegno has explained numerous times that as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, appropriate staffing for each patient is an issue, even when space is not. In a press conference on Dec. 10, Avegno invited an emergency nurse from University Medical Center to speak to the press.
“We definitely have space,” the nurse said. “It’s our staff that we don’t have. For every patient [there’s] a physician, two nurses, a respiratory therapist. We need our techs available. There’s a lot of ancillary staff that comes into that.”
While the new number of hospitalizations is alarming, this is not the worst it’s been in the state. The number of COVID-19 patients in Louisiana hospitals rose above 1,600 on April 2 and stayed there through May 1. For nine days in April, the count was near or above 2,000.
As the country begins to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers, health officials say lower infection rates will allow for the immunization process to go more smoothly once vaccines reach the general population.
“If it continues to rage and our healthcare systems are overwhelmed, we’re not also going to have the bandwidth to go out and vaccinate everyone,” Avegno told WWNO.