Louisiana crosses threshold of 100K confirmed virus cases

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana reported more than 101,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, making it the 12th state — and by far the least populous — with at least 100,000 cases.

“These are only the cases that we know about … There are undoubtedly more,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

“What we’re dealing with is a very serious problem, a widespread problem,” the Democratic governor said during his Thursday pandemic update.

Louisiana’s confirmed cases have risen about 45% since July 8, while the national total rose from 3 million to about 4 million .

At Lafayette General Medical Center, “one half of our intensive care and one-third of our non-intensive care beds have patients fighting COVID,” said Dr. Amanda Logue, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers can’t keep up their current pace, she and Dr. Henry Kaufman, chief medical officer of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, said during Edwards’ briefing.

“They’re tired. They were tired from the first wave and maybe not recovered” when the second wave hit, Kaufman said.

Staffing agencies can’t help any more than they already are, he said: “Everybody who’s employable is employed.”

Edwards has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide 480 nurses and 210 other health care workers across Louisiana, according to a list sent by his press office.

Officials with Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center, the biggest hospital in the Baton Rouge area, said it had 103 COVID-19 patients, 42 of them in intensive care. The coronavirus patients made up about 16% of the hospital’s total but about one-third of all patients who are in intensive care.

The total number of COVID-19 patients hasn’t been this high since the beginning of the pandemic, Scott Wester, the hospital’s president and CEO said during a teleconference with reporters. That was up from a low of 17 in mid- to late-June, said hospital spokesman Ryan Cross.

With so many patients in ICUs, the hospital has had to stop taking intensive care patients from outside the capital region, said chief operating officer Stephanie Manson.

The COVID-19 patients cover a wide range of communities, ages and other demographics, said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“I see 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds … 60-year-olds who were mowing the grass two weeks ago” and didn’t need any kind of medication before the virus hit them, she said.

The hospital has enough space for 200 ICU beds but is having trouble getting enough staff at a time when COVID-19 numbers are rising in many other states, officials said.

Edwards on Thursday signed an order extending his current mask mandate and other restrictions on businesses until at least Aug. 7.

The rules limit restaurants to 50% capacity for in-person dining, restrict bars to takeout and delivery only and place occupancy limits on gyms, salons and other businesses deemed nonessential. Face coverings are required for anyone age 8 and older, with medical exceptions. Indoor gatherings above 50 people are banned.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported that 101,650 cases of the disease have been confirmed, though numbers are likely far higher because many people with no or minor symptoms don’t get tested. COVID-19 has killed at least 3,574 people and has currently hospitalized 1,585 in the state.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.

Other states with at least 100,000 cases are California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. The least populated of those, Massachusetts, has an estimated 6.9 million residents to Louisiana’s 4.6 million.