Vaccine brings encouragement, but third surge brings huge spike

Staff Report

The arrival of one vaccine and a positive review on another has brought encouragement that the state – and world – could eventually see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

At the same time, Gov. John Bel Edwards has said mitigation must continue as the COVID rapidly spreads in the third surge.

The state received its first does of the Pfizer Messenger RNA vaccine during the weekend and administered the first doses Monday at Ochsner Hospital in Jefferson Parish, while the Moderna coronavirus vaccine received a positive review from the federal government Tuesday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has said mitigation must continue as the COVID rapidly spreads in the third surge.

“Ultimately, that’s how we’re going to end this pandemic, but that’s not going to happen for a long time, probably a number of months,” Edwards said during a briefing Dec. 10. “Everybody needs to understand that from the onset.”

A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed the Pfizer COVID vaccine Dec. 10. The advisory group – which granted approval in a 17-4 vote, with one abstention – concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against COVID for people 16 and older, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Millions of shots will be shipped across the United States for the start of vaccination for healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Louisiana will receive a total of 39,000 doses in the first allocation and 40,000 more will arrive a week later.

Priority 1A would go to critical Tier 1 hospitals for healthcare workers and other personnel, including nurses, therapists and other employees who are exposed to COVID patients.

The general allocation would begin in spring.

The shots will not arrive soon enough to snap a rapid surge in positive cases.

“What’s happening now as we speak is the tremendous surge in positive rates, hospitalization rates and the unacceptable number of deaths,” Edwards said. “We’re in the middle of a dangerous third surge in Louisiana, and I’m very concerned about the threat to the healthcare system.”

Forty-eight of the state’s 64 parishes have percent positivity rates greater than 10 percent, up from 23 percent before the third surge.

“We’re going to have to do better,” Edwards said. “In the winter, in the heart of the flu season, and we haven’t seen full impact of Thanksgiving yet on top of the surge we’re already seeing.

If we have a post-Christmas surge on top of that, we will be in a very difficult place,” he said.

The state is currently under modified Phase 2 restrictions, which took effect Nov. 24. The restrictions will remain in effect until at least Dec. 23.

The current restrictions scale back occupancy to 50 percent for restaurants and coffee shops, as well as casinos, video poker parlors, gyms, fitness centers and non-essential retailers.