Louisiana remains COVID-19 capital of U.S. as hospitals struggle to find beds and staff

Greg Hilburn Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana remained the COVID capital of the United States this week as the state's hospitals struggle to find beds and staff to treat the most seriously ill with the infection.

"We don't have much good news today," Edwards said during a Friday press conference. "As bad as things have been in last few weeks they keep moving in the wrong direction.

"We have the highest COVID-19 growth rate in the country, and it's not even close. We're in a bad place."

But Edwards resisted imposing more restrictions on commerce and gatherings other than the state mask mandate already in place.

Meanwhile, French Quarter Fest and Festival Acadiens et Créoles followed Jazz Fest and other signature fall festivals being scrapped or postponed.

Some school districts like Union Parish are pushing back their opening dates and New Orleans will become the first Deep South city to mandate vaccines or negative tests to enter many indoor and outdoor venues beginning Monday.

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Confirmed COVID-19 cases grew at their fastest pace yet this week with 29,015 new infections reported for an average of 4,145 a day and an increase of 17% over last week.

"There is nothing to suggest we're at the peak (of the current COVID surge)," Edwards said.

The biggest concern remains the state's capacity to care for those who are the sickest. There are 2,907 hospitalized COVID patients, an all-time high.

"We're rapidly approaching the breaking point in our health care delivery system," Edwards said. "They're maxed out."

Ochsner Lafayette General Dr. Amanda Logue, the chief medical officer for the largest healthcare provider in Acadiana, said COVID is "consuming all of the energy that remains in our healthcare workers."

"Exhaustion isn't even a word that describes it," Logue said. "This pandemic is completely stretching our resources; it's worse than ever before."

Asked whether the state would consider standing up a field hospital like the one established in New Orleans early in the pandemic for recovering patients, Edwards said there isn't enough medical personnel to staff such an operation.

And even as the current COVID-19 surge continues to worsen, Louisiana’s short-lived growth in vaccinations against the virus leveled off this week, with new jabs dropping 4.3% from the week before.

As of Thursday, 84,449 Louisiana residents sought the shots for the first time this week, giving just over 44% of the state’s total population some level of vaccinated immunity, based on data from LDH.

Edwards announced a new vaccination incentive program for college students as they return to campuses. The state will provide $100 VISA gift cards to the first 75,000 college students vaccinated at participating institutions.

For information about the program go to ShotFor100.com or call Louisiana’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774.