BATON ROUGE — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soar, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health are urging people to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home and releasing new recommendations as K-12 students prepare to return to school.
The Omicron variant continues to surge throughout Louisiana, and the state is beginning to see the impact.
- As of today’s reporting, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 has increased by 268% since December 16. The vast majority of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated.
- 95% of 64 parishes are at the two highest risk levels of community transmission.
- Statewide percent positivity for the week of December 16 is 10.7%, up from 3.3% the previous week. This represents a 224% increase.
- A total of 5 new cases of Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC) have been reported since last Wednesday’s report.
- Yesterday 9,378 new COVID-19 cases were reported. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) and New York Times who track cases by report date, that’s the highest number of cases reported in a single day in in Louisiana since the start of the pandemic. Today’s report of 12,467 new COVID-19 cases breaks yesterday’s record. We know many more cases than this are occurring:
- Many individuals are taking advantage of the availability of at-home tests, which are not included in our counts.
- Recent CDC estimates indicate that for every case that is reported, an additional 3 individuals are infected but do not get reported.
- Average daily incidence of COVID-19 in Region 1 (Greater New Orleans) has exceeded its Delta surge peak.
- Emergency department visits related to COVID-19 have more than doubled since last week. As of December 25, 16.7% of emergency department visits were related to COVID-19; during our Delta surge, the peak was 18.7%. The percentage of emergency department visits related to COVID-like-illness has reached an all-time high in the Greater New Orleans area and Northwest Louisiana.
“I’m very sorry that we’re back here,” said Gov. Edwards. “Unfortunately, we don’t get a vote in what this virus does, but we do get a choice on how we respond. As we close out the year, I strongly encourage you to join me in modifying your plans this New Year’s Eve and not gathering with people outside of your immediate household. This is unfortunately necessary as we work hard to mitigate the impact of this fifth Omicron-fueled surge. What gives me hope as we enter the new year is that more people in Louisiana are changing their minds and choosing to go sleeves up and get the COVID-19 vaccine. So far this month, already 71,797 people have received their first dose.”
“The data are clear,” said State Epidemiologist Theresa Sokol. “COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percent positivity continue to climb at a startlingly fast rate, and we believe we are just starting to see the impact of the Omicron surge. That is why we must do everything we can going into this New Year’s weekend to slow its spread and stay safe. I am urging families to follow our new public health recommendations as we prepare for our children to return to school – get yourself and your children vaccinated and boosted if eligible, get your children tested prior to the return to school, and continue to wear your masks indoors and outdoors. I know this is very tough and not where any of want to be, but we must do what we can to protect ourselves and our families.”
LDH Guidance and Recommendations
Holidays & general public health recommendations during Omicron surge:
- Celebrate at home with members of your everyday household.
- Get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, to protect yourself and others.
- Mask regardless of vaccination status. Mask in indoor public places; mask indoors when with people outside your everyday household; and mask outdoors when distancing is not possible.
- Limit exposure to those outside your everyday household.
- Work remotely if possible.
K-12 return to school recommendations:
Omicron spreads easily and very quickly. This variant will cause widespread outbreaks and will likely result in school closures if prevention measures are not strictly followed in these settings.
- Mask universally indoors and outside when socially distancing is not possible. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet during mealtimes when masking is not possible
- Most outbreaks identified in school settings have been associated with extracurricular activities. It is safest to suspend extracurricular activities while the extremely transmissible Omicron variant is circulating at such high levels in throughout our state, i.e., until statewide incidence is below 200 infections per 100,000 people.
- Do not participate in social gatherings with individuals outside your everyday household (e.g., pep rallies, school dances) until statewide incidence is below 200 infections per 100,000 people.
- Get vaccinated and boosted when eligible.
- Children should be tested prior to the return to school.
- At-home antigen tests remain in short supply nationwide and in Louisiana. PCR tests are free, widely available and are more sensitive than antigen tests when it comes to detecting Omicron. Results for PCR tests are available within approximately 24 to 48 hours in most cases.
- It is important to remember that tests are a snapshot in time, and a negative test does not mean you will not test positive later if you were exposed to the virus.
- LDH continues to work to make testing more accessible, and is continuing to add sites across Louisiana ahead of the New Year holiday,
- Do not visit an emergency room to obtain a test. Emergency rooms are for the seriously ill or someone needing immediate medical attention.
To learn about vaccination sites near you, call Louisiana’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 855-453-0774. For a list of locations near you, visit https://ldh.la.gov/covidvaccine or text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish.
To find a COVID-19 test site near you, call 211 or visit ldh.la.gov/covidtesting.