NWLA healthcare leaders plead with public not to go to ER for COVID-19 test


SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Local hospital leaders held a briefing on COVID-19 Friday morning urging the public not to go to the emergency room or urgent care just to get tested as omicron continues a dramatic surge statewide and in Northwest Louisiana.

Louisiana Department of Health Region 7 Medical Director Dr. Martha Whyte said she wanted to hold the briefing because of the number of people and the increase in wait times in local emergency rooms.

CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System CEO Dr. T. Steen Trawick said the hospital system has seen a deluge of patients in their emergency departments and urgent cares, doubling the numbers to the highest levels they’ve ever seen.

“The vast majority are just seeking a COVID test,” Trawick said. “That is not an efficient use of resources.”

He suggests utilizing the resources that local healthcare systems and community organizations have put forth – such as drive-thru testing locations, calling 211 for test site information, or using virtual doctor visits for mild symptoms.

If you have been exposed or have mild symptoms all of the medical professionals agree that you should be vigilant and treat yourself as if you have COVID until you are able to get tested. Take preventive measures to avoid transmitting the virus, considering omicron has a higher transmission rate than the previous delta variant.

Hospitalizations in Northwest Louisiana have risen from 31 on December 19 to 108 as of Wednesday, a 248% increase in less than two weeks. That tracks with the sharp increase in hospitalizations statewide, which have risen by 268 percent, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. As of Wednesday, there were 762 patients hospitalized across the state with COVIC-19. The majority of them are not fully vaccinated.

The briefing comes a day after Gov. John Bel Edwards held a virtual briefing from his home in Roseland to implore the public to take the latest surge seriously. Edwards was joined by Tier 1 hospital medical directors from across the state, who gave first-hand accounts of what they are seeing. All reported their emergency departments are overwhelmed, and that the vast majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

They also implored people not to go to the ER to get tested for COVID-19, in order to help preserve the capacity to provide life-saving care for those in need.

The Louisiana Department of Health also reported 12,467 new cases and two new deaths on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 828,695 and the total number of deaths to 14,986.

Of the 1,559 new cases reported Thursday, 811 were in Caddo and 370 were in Bossier Parish.

This LDH says 24% of the new cases are coming from Region 1 (Greater New Orleans), 20% from Region 2 (Baton Rouge), and 13% from Region 7 (Northwest).

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