NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Louisiana have dropped to the lowest level since late December — prior to a post-holiday season surge that saw the number hit a record high.
Figures posted by the state health department Monday showed the number of people hospitalized with the disease caused by the new coronavirus at 1,638. The number was 2,069 on Jan. 7, higher than the peak of just under 2,000 in the first deadly surge that hit the state in early 2020.
The Louisiana numbers are similar to a national trend. The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital in the U.S. has fallen to about 110,000 from a high of 132,000 on Jan. 7.
The government’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the improvement appears to be the result of “natural peaking and then plateauing” after a holiday surge, rather than an effect of the rollout of vaccines that began in mid-December.
Louisiana, like other states, continues to have more interest in the vaccine than shots available. Some hospitals and clinics have reported having to cancel immunization appointments because they didn’t have enough vaccine doses to distribute.
Officials with Ochsner health said during a Monday news conference that they have enough vaccines to ensure that those who have gotten the first of two shots needed can get the second shot. But after having to cancel appointments because they received fewer doses than they had first anticipated, Ochsner has stopped making appointments for the initial shots.
“It’s been about a 70 percent decline in the vaccine supply from where we are today versus where we were several weeks ago,” Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said. “The state is going through their allocation process and they’ve got tremendous demand for vaccine and they’re doing the best they can to meet demand issues but they’re not getting enough supply from the federal government.”
Meanwhile, while demand is so high that Ochsner has had to cancel thousands of appointments, just over half of the system’s employees have not been vaccinated. Thomas, Ochsner Chief Medical Officer Robert Hart and infectious disease specialist Sandra Kemmerly said some employees have been reluctant based on pervasive misinformation about side effects.
“We continue to stress to our employees and everybody that will listen to us how safe and effective this vaccine is,” Kemmerly said.
Ochsner officials stressed that system employees who have not scheduled an appointment will not get priority above other eligible people — for instance, people age 70 and older — who have signed up.
The latest statewide figures show 272,625 people had been vaccinated as of Friday, including more than 41,000 who have received a required second dose. There have been nearly 386,000 cases in the state since the first case was reported last year, 8,590 deaths attributed to the disease and more than 320,000 presumed recovered.
More than 20 people connected to a wrestling tournament held earlier this month in Ascension Parish tested positive for the disease.
The state Department of Health said athletes, staff and attendees at the Louisiana Classic Wrestling Tournament, which was held at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales on Jan. 15 and 16, have tested positive.
The agency said anyone who attended the tournament should immediately get tested for COVID-19, even if not experiencing symptoms — and should quarantine for 10 days since exposure to prevent the risk of further spread.