Fourth COVID strain shows no sign of letting up

Staff Report

The fourth coronavirus strain to fuel a spike in new cases and hospitalizations and, in effect, create a major drop-off from the progress made against the pandemic earlier this year.

The Iberville Parish case total eclipsed the 3,700 mark over the week, while the number of confirmed deaths was 98.

The increase in case count also prompted public officials to determine if it’s time to reinstate use of masks and other precautions.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso

“We’ve seen some spikes in the last week,” Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said. “I’m going to follow the governor’s guidelines, and just like in 2020, we’re going to wait for his announcement. I’m just waiting to see what he’s going to do, and I want to follow his guidelines and go by his leads.”

Ourso said he has encouraged his employees to get the vaccination, but he said he not in a position to make it a mandatory procedure.

Masks will be required for those who have not yet received the vaccination, he said.

“I have encouraged all my employees to get the vaccination. However, you can’t make them, so the only precautionary measures we’re taking now is with my employees who have not been vaccinated,” Ourso said. “I expect them to wear a mask in the workplace so they can protect their employees and their coworkers.”

He expects many agencies will mandate the vaccine for employees if the FDA approves it. Religious beliefs may be one of very few exemptions.

“It’s better to take it to ease the risk, and I can’t understand people not wanting to take the vaccine,” Ourso said. “All we can do is practice whatever safeguards we can do.”

Across the parking lot at City Hall, Plaquemine Mayor Edwin “Ed” Reeves Jr. said he already issued a mask mandate for employees and customers inside the municipal building.

All employees must wear masks, and the same rule will apply to the customers, he said.

Plaquemine Mayor Ed Reeves

“In order to be waited on at City Hall, you must wear a mask,” Reeves said. “If you don’t wear a mask, we’re going to ask you to leave, and we’re not going to wait on you. It’s too scary, and it’s ramped up way too much.”

The statewide counts last week showed the aggressive spread of the delta variant.

The Louisiana Department of Health announced 6,797 new COVID-19 cases reported to the state since July 26 – the second highest single-day case count reported since January 6 (6,882 cases reported that day).

Also, 1,390 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the latest numbers available. That represented the largest single-day increase since March 2020. There were three days in March 2020 where the increase was larger: March 25 (220), March 31 (196) and March 26 (185).

“To see this current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming increasingly scary,” Edwards said. “We reported nearly 6,800 cases today in addition to the nearly 8,000 that were reported from the weekend. And today, there are close to 1,400 COVID patients hospitalized statewide -- approximately 90 percent of whom are unvaccinated. This is the largest single daily increase since March of last year. the largest single daily increase since March of last year.”

"As I said recently, this surge is on us, and that means it is up to each of us to do our part to bring it to an end. It’s within our power. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. It is the best way to put it behind us.

"In addition, I am recommending that everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks while indoors if six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained.

"For anyone asking the question when will this end, the answer is simple: when we decide to do what it takes to end it.

"The most impactful tools to make that happen are free and widely available- the three safe and effective vaccines. I am pleading with everyone who is not vaccinated and is of age to make the decision today to get vaccinated. Talk to a trusted medical professional and get the facts. Don’t let misinformation keep you from protecting yourself and your loved ones.”   

NOT SLOWING DOWN

COVID is surging in Louisiana and it is not slowing down, according to State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter.

“As the dangerous and dominant Delta variant continues to spread and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, we urge all individuals in Louisiana to protect themselves and their families,” he\ said. “Mask while indoors and get tested if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. These are public health emergency measures that will limit death and suffering during this fourth surge. To ultimately put this pandemic behind us we need many more Louisianans to go sleeves up, which is why it’s so encouraging to see our weekly vaccination rate climbing.”