Louisiana leads all states in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita, continuing to outpace even Florida, Arizona and New York, where dramatic surges of the virus have occurred since the outbreak began in March.
The state's peak in April came mostly from widespread infections in New Orleans. Now the rest of Louisiana is surging.
The second resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Louisiana is worse than the first wave in the spring, making Louisiana the only state in the nation to experience two devastating spikes of the virus, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
Louisiana leads all states in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita, continuing to outpace even Florida, Arizona and New York, where dramatic surges of the virus have occurred since the outbreak began in March. Louisiana leads US in total COVID-19 cases per 100k residents
But unlike those states, Louisiana has been among the worst impacted in the U.S. twice during the pandemic — once in April when the New Orleans area led the state's rise in COVID-19 spread and again this summer when dozens of parishes across the state more than doubled the number of infections they experienced in April, according to the analysis by USA TODAY Network.
Louisiana and New York have long been the top states for per capita infections, but as New York’s cases have largely plateaued in recent weeks, the virus has made a strong comeback in Louisiana.Coronavirus hotspots shift to the SouthSince the beginning of the pandemic, Louisiana has reported 116,280 total cases and 3,835 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Louisiana Department of Health's Friday update.
Louisiana's experience with COVID-19 offers insight into how a state that early on took strict shut-down measures to control the virus later suffered a more expansive surge after it reopened.COVID-19 has spread far and fast in Louisiana, more 'than any point'
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat in a mostly Republican state, took criticism early in the pandemic for his stay-home order that shut down the state's economy in the spring. He's been hesitant to roll back reopening since the latest surge began, instead focusing on a mask mandate and a more targeted closure order for bars.
Edwards already is signaling he likely will extend his mask and bar closure order another two weeks. And he said he hasn't ruled out stronger measures to control the virus.Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaking at Press Conference at the LITE Center. Monday, July 27, 2020.
SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network“The most important thing to know is that the situation remains very, very serious,” Edwards said during a Thursday briefing. “There’s more COVID-19 in Louisiana and across every community across Louisiana than in any point up to now.”
Edwards is right. The spread of the virus is vast in Louisiana after the state began reopening in June, and more prevalent than it was in April's peak, according to the USA TODAY Network analysis. New Orleans no longer the problem as surges continue in rest of Louisiana
While south Louisiana parishes mostly around New Orleans and Houma have seen fewer COVID-19 cases this summer when compared to April, much of the rest of the state has seen more than twice as many coronavirus infections this summer than the state's first peak of the pandemic.
The worst week in the summer surge brought at least double the number of COVID-19 cases in 45 parishes than the worst week of the April surge, according to the USA TODAY Network analysis. And 37 parishes reached that peak since July 15.That spike in July shows just how far and how fast across the state the virus has spread, with the greatest spikes reported in parishes around Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lafayette and Lake Charles, the analysis shows.
Emergency Department Dr Doug Clement and Charge Nurse Erica Granger. Medical staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital are part of the essential workforce providing healthcare services. Wednesday, April 1, 2020.SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY NetworkIn northeast Louisiana's Madison Parish, the summer spike of coronavirus cases climbed to 133 new cases in the worst week in June, an increase of more than 4,000% over the three cases reported in the worst week of April's peak.
In Acadiana's Vermilion Parish, the summer surge peak came last week with 332 cases reported, an increase of 1,975% over the 16 reported in the worst week of April, the analysis shows.Sixteen of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have cumulative per capita infection rates greater than New York City, considered to have the nation's worst concentration of the virus early in the pandemic. One Louisiana parish — East Carroll — has recorded more than double New York City’s infection rate, according to the analysis.
WATCH replay: Gov. John Bel Edwards updates on Louisiana COVID-19 cases, hospitalizationsThe analysis also shows while testing increased throughout Louisiana in July, the number of tests coming back positive also increased. This suggests the number of positive cases of COVID-19 was rising faster than the number of tests.
The state's positivity rate in May and June ranged between 3% and 8%. In June, the number of tests coming back positive was often around 6%, and it jumped to about 10% by mid-July, according to an analysis of data maintained by the COVID Tracking Project.
Edwards said Thursday one of his main concerns is the high positivity rates that have lingered in most parishes.Lafayette General Health and Our Lady of Lourdes leaders discuss COVID-19 surge in AcadianaDr. Amanda Logue with Lafayette General Health and Dr. Henry Kaufman of Our Lady of Lourdes discuss COVID-19 surge in Acadiana.
Submitted, Lafayette Daily AdvertiserLouisiana's two surges differ, as one prompted shutdown, the other masksLouisiana’s two defined peaks of COVID-19 place it among the worst affected areas of the country in April and then in the summer, and the USA TODAY Network analysis shows the second peak is worse.
Louisiana first peaked in the week ending April 7, when it added 237.6 new cases per 100,000 residents, the third-worst in the country behind New Jersey and New York.In its second surge, Louisiana sprinted past the April peak. For the week ending July 27, Louisiana added 323.2 new cases per 100,000 residents. The state's per-capita July peak is behind only Florida and Arizona, which are experiencing their first strong spikes of the pandemic.
During the first surge, Louisiana had more aggressive measures in place to prevent the spread. Edwards issued a stay-home order on March 22 and kept the order in place until May 15, when the state moved into Phase 1 of reopening. Even with more cases confined to certain regions, the state locked down.
Dr. Tina Stefanski, the state's regional health director for Acadiana, speaking at press conference at City Hall. Friday, June 19, 2020.SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY NetworkThe second surge began after the state relaxed restrictions. Dr. Tina Stefanski, the Acadiana regional medical director for Louisiana's Office of Public Health, said there was not enough compliance with mask and social distancing guidelines after reopening.
"As we've opened up businesses and society, we're seeing an increase of cases," Stefanski said."Even though the virus was clearly still circulating, many people went back to their lives as they were before. It didn't change their behavior."
Louisiana now leads the nation in total cases per resident since the outbreak began in March. Louisiana reported 2,463 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Arizona with a rate of 2,347, Florida with 2,148 and New York at 2,130.The New Orleans area has seen significant decreases in daily new cases since its peak during the first surge. Orleans Parish, for example, recorded 797 cases per 100,000 during the week of April 7. Its peak during the summer surge, during the week of July 16, brought only 181 cases per 100,000 — a decrease of 77%.
More:Louisiana COVID-19: Acadiana adds 200 new cases, 9 deaths ThursdayThe same was true for the other parishes that had high case numbers during the first wave. The worst weeks recorded in July for Jefferson and St. John the Baptist Parishes’ were down 53% and 55%, respectively, from their worst April weeks. Of the 11 parishes that were in the top 50 nationally for new cases per capita during the week ending April 7, all except Lafourche and DeSoto reported decreases since their peaks in the first surge.
Many of the areas hit heavily by COVID-19 in the first wave in April implemented mask mandates earlier. New Orleans issued a mandate June 24. Jefferson Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish started mandating masks July 1.But the parishes that were largely spared during the first wave are now seeing more cases than they did in April. Calcasieu Parish — which includes one of Louisiana's most populous cities, Lake Charles — had a modest peak of new cases during the spring surge with 121 in the week ending April 7. Its peak in the summer surge, last week, was more than 900% higher at 1,245.
Louisiana's second COVID-19 surge not as deadly as first - yetLouisiana has seen signs in recent days that the state could be approaching a plateau as the number of new cases added each day has started to decline. But even with numbers of new cases falling, the state still had thousands of new cases this week, putting pressure on hospital systems.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters at a briefing on the state's efforts against the coronavirus pandemic in Baton Rouge, La., Monday, May 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)Gerald Herbert, AP“We hope that we’re seeing the beginnings of a trend toward a plateau in cases, although it’s at a very high level of cases,” Edwards said.
During the summer surge, the death rate has not reached the peak from the spring surge. For the week of April 18, the state averaged 9.9 deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 5.4 per 100,000 for the week of July 30. Edwards said that while the state may be seeing evidence of cases leveling off, it may take a while for deaths to plateau. On Wednesday, the state recorded 69 new deaths, the highest daily count in more than two months.
"We know that deaths are a lagging indicator of what's going on because the first thing you're going to see is people contracting the illness, then they're going to go into the hospital and so forth," Edwards said."It could be some time before this shows up in fewer deaths."
Stefanski said she's hopeful the mask mandate will lead to a decrease in infection levels, but it will take time to see the effects of the mandate. While more people are wearing masks, she said she's concerned about large crowds that continue to gather.
"I'm really concerned that we're not going to drive down the level of infection in the community to the point that we really need it to be in order to open schools safely or helping nursing homes get back to some level of visitation," she said."There are implications to people's behavior socially."
Some Louisiana hospitals prepare for the worst of second surgeHospitals in central Louisiana, an area that has experienced some of the greatest increases in infections in the state during the summer wave, issued a plea this week for people to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
“We strongly believe the people of this community can help make this happen,” the letter said. “But to successfully do that, we need everyone to take all needed steps to limit their risk of exposure and help protect those around them. Masks, physical distancing and hand washing — these things work and can help get the virus back under control in our community.”
More:Lourdes chief medical officer: At current pace, Lafayette could deplete medical resourcesAt the governor’s Thursday press conference, Dr. G.E. Ghali, the chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, said while North Louisiana has not seen the same large increases in case numbers as other parts of the state, it has seen a sharp uptick over the last 30 days.
“We are nearly as high today as we were back on the, I want to say, 8th of April, where we had the highest number of COVID patients at about 70 patient at that time” Ghali said.On more than one occasion, leaders from Acadiana’s two largest healthcare systems — Lafayette General Health and Our Lady of Lourdes — have joined forces to urge Acadiana residents to comply with the governor’s face mask order and other guidelines.
More:On Wednesday, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center posted a memo on Facebook written by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Henry Kaufman, which said the current rate of increasing cases “will deplete the medical resources of our community.”Dr. Henry Kaufman of Our Lady of Lourdes
Courtesy of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical CenterIn the memo, Kaufman said the community’s “resistance to common sense measures” was to blame for the area’s difficulty in combating COVID-19. Lafayette Parish, nor any of the other Acadiana parishes, had a mask mandate until Edwards implemented the statewide mandate July 13.Read more: USA TODAY »
Nigerian startup helps local churches digitize operations
Henry Okolo has grown accustomed to using his phone to stay in touch with God during the coronavirus pandemic. He uses an app every Sunday morning to listen to a virtual service in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.
If they locked down the entire state in April when New Orleans was the hotspot then that is the cause of their current resurgence. Having a lockdown without a surge is a lose-lose scenario. Wreck the economy just to delay the onset of a surge of cases. LauraDiBella15 It’s because the stupid mothafuckers listen to Trump and refuse to wear masks. We will never get this virus under control if we don’t all play by the same rules. I predicted months ago that America will loose over 5 million people to the virus before it’s over with.
Mask up! Louisiana folks!
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