SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – New COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Northwest Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

COVID-19 Community Levels are a measurement tool established by the CDC to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.

Community level data is updated weekly on Wednesdays on the LDH coronavirus website. According to the latest data, COVID-19 community levels in Caddo, Bossier, and De Soto Parish are high, while parishes across most of the rest of the state are medium or low. Only St. James Parish in South Louisiana currently has high community levels of COVID-19 in addition to the three parishes in Northwest Louisiana.

Percent positivity rates are on the rise across much of the state, however, including all of Northwest Louisiana. Over the past month, percent positivity in Region 7 has more than tripled, from 4.70 to 14.60. Hospitalizations in the region have dramatically risen, too, from 14 on May 21 to 70 as of June 21.

(Source: Louisiana Department of Health)

The region was averaging about eight cases per day in late March, which was the lowest point since the last surge peaked at more than 1,700 per day in mid-January, driven by the original omicron variant. Now, the trendline is rising again. There were 386 new cases were reported on June 21 across the nine parishes in NWLA, including 184 in Caddo Parish alone.

“Omicron was our fifth and this is our sixth [surge],” explained Dr. John Vanchiere, chief of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases at LSU Health. “It’s a slow and steady increase. This is an omicron variant. Most of what we are seeing is the omicron variant. That is BA.2.12.1. So it’s got a whole long strain. But just last week, we detected significant activity with the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants.”

Scientists say the BA.2.12.1 strain now dominant here and across the United States spreads faster than its omicron predecessors, is adept at escaping immunity and might possibly cause more serious disease. The BA.4 and BA.5 strains are omicron relatives that together dominate in South Africa. Both appear to carry the so-called “delta mutation,” which appears to allow the virus to escape pre-existing immunity from vaccination and prior infection, especially in those infected in the January omicron wave.

The Department of Health is joining the CDC in encouraging all Louisiana children ages six months and up to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which became available on Monday.

However, Dr. Vanchiere says the LSU site is not offering the shots for kids under six at the LSU vaccination site.

“Really, the ideal place for those is in their primary care physician offices where they get their routine vaccines.”

LDH says 21 children have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana since the pandemic began.