By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana might be starting to see the benefits of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, but Gov. John Bel Edwards isn’t ready to call it a trend yet.
The rate of new hospitalizations and ventilator usage, key measures in determining when the state’s health-care system could be overwhelmed, appears to be slowing, he said.
“We are hopeful that we’re seeing the beginning of the flattening of the curve,” he said Monday.
Edwards cautioned that mitigation efforts, which include staying home as much as possible and keeping your distance from others when you must go out, still need to continue. He said health-care workers are learning how to better manage COVID-19 patients, leading to shorter hospital stays.
Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Monday that Teva Pharmaceuticals is making available 8,000 packs of azithromycin and 75,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine sulfate for use in Louisiana. Last week, Amneal Pharmaceuticals donated 400,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine.
Although the drugs have not been proven effective against COVID-19, Landry said some medical professionals have coupled the use of hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic azithromycin in hopes of helping those patients.
The drugs now are available for doctors to prescribe and for LSU School of Medicine clinical trials examining whether hydroxychloroquine can help clear the virus from the lungs of infected patients and potentially can help shield health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients.
“These drugs do not represent a silver bullet or a magic wand,” Landry said.
The Louisiana Department of Health said slightly more than 70 percent of Louisiana patients who have died from COVID-19 were African American; information that was not available publicly before Monday. The state’s population is about 32 percent African American.
Louisiana’s high death rate also is believed to be connected to high rates of certain chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Half of the nation’s top 20 counties (which are called parishes in Louisiana) for COVID-19 deaths per capita are in Louisiana.
As of noon Monday, the health department reported 512 deaths from COVID-19. LDH said 1,809 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, and 563 of them were on ventilators.
A total of 14,867 cases had been reported.