BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Gov. John Bel Edwards held a media briefing on Louisiana’s response to COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon as the Omicron variant continues to sweep across the state and one day after extending the public health emergency another month.
The governor spoke in hopeful terms of a possible peak in the latest surge of the coronavirus but warned it’s not over yet.
“We may be approaching a peak, which would be obviously welcome because you can’t start going down until you have reached the peak, but I can tell you right now there is a tremendous amount of COVID in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that we have right now in Louisiana.”
Plus, Edwards said there are likely many more cases than have been officially reported to the state because people testing at home are not captured in health department data.
“We know that well in excess of one million have had COVID since the start of the pandemic,” Edwards said, referencing the milestone passed Tuesday.
And there is still plenty of transmission going around schools, which Edwards said are seeing very high numbers of COVID-19.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 14,706 new coronavirus cases Thursday and 37 new deaths.
The LDH says the state is seeing increased reinfections with the continued rapid spread of the Omicron variant, noting the new cases reported Thursday include 1,875 reinfections. Reinfections are defined as a positive viral COVID-19 test in an individual with a previous positive test at least 90 days prior.
The state is also reporting 2,367 COVID hospitalizations. Of those patients, the state health department says 72 percent are unvaccinated and 142 are on ventilators.
As of Thursday, a total of 15,283 people in Louisiana have died from COVID-19.
“Although the first signs of a peak in the fifth surge of COVID-19 appear to be present, the Omicron variant remains a significant threat to the people of Louisiana,” the proclamation signed Wednesday reads, “and it remains vital that the people of this state follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) which include: staying home and isolated when symptomatic, observing quarantine and isolation standards, and masking in public places in areas of high transmission.”
The emergency health order will remain in effect through February 16.
“We have to work together to get out of this surge. LDH strongly recommends getting vaccinated and boosted if eligible, masking indoors as well as outside when distancing is not possible, and limiting your exposure to those not in your household,” the LDH said in a statement posted to Facebook early Thursday afternoon.
Edwards also provided a brief update Thursday afternoon on the state’s preparations for a winter storm advisory in effect for southeast Louisiana, which is where freezing precipitation is forecast. Emergency officials met Thursday to coordinate response if needed, but Edwards said power outages are not expected because the precipitation is expected to be light and short-lived.
Still, Edwards warned it will be bone-chilling cold throughout the state, with several nights of freezing temperatures and wind chills in the teens. The governor urged residents to look after one another, especially elderly neighbors.
“I am tired of talking about weather events and storms and COVID, but just because we are tired doesn’t mean the problems go away, said Edwards.