COVID-19 cases on upswing in state
Louisiana’s coronavirus cases continued to surge over the weekend, further solidifying the evidence that the state is starting a third major outbreak as infections are hitting record levels nationwide.
The number of newly reported cases on Sunday continued a sharp climb, bringing the weekly total to nearly twice where it was just seven days prior. And that’s been accompanied by a steady increase in hospitalizations: The 753 people hospitalized with the coronavirus on Saturday is 21 percent higher than the number a week before.
The climbing infection and hospitalization rates have already generated alarm from state and some local officials in Louisiana, with warnings that if the case count continues to rise, restrictions may need to be tightened to tamp down on the virus’s spread.
Several schools in Acadiana are shifting to all-virtual classes or canceling sporting events in response to the increase in novel coronavirus cases on school campuses, and school leaders are pleading with their communities to be cautious and help stop the spread before it impacts learning.
At Iota High School in Acadia Parish, the Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 football games were canceled “due to a COVID situation beyond our control,” according to a post on the athletic boosters association’s website
The Nov. 6 football game between Church Point High and Ville Platte High also was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak at Ville Platte.
Acadia Parish Superintendent Scott Richard said he could only provide limited details, but the football cancellations at Iota is one of the most significant actions the district has had to take in response to COVID-19 cases to date.
Most of the focus has been on proactive quarantining and contact tracing, he said.
On Wednesday (Nov. 11), the district closed the Church Point Head Start for two weeks because of cases.
Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students returned to full-time in-person classes on Monday, Nov. 9, and the district hopes to do the same with high school students beginning Dec. 7, but that may not be possible if community case numbers continue their concerning trend.
Richard said there are ongoing community behaviors that “aren’t conducive to us keeping schools open.”
“Obviously we can’t control nor do we want to be critical of what happens away from school, but we feel our school safety measures at the school sites are to the letter of the guidelines we need to follow,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s community spread right now and we need everyone’s help to keep our schools operational.”
Louisiana’s current spike appears to be spread across the state, with every one of the nine Louisiana Department of Health regions seeing cases increase by at least 90 percent over the past two weeks.
Particularly hard hit have been the Lafayette area, where cases more than quadrupled over that time span, and the northeastern corner of the state, where they have more than tripled.
The New Orleans area has also seen its case numbers triple, from 418 two weeks ago to 1,256 this week.
Hospitalizations have been on the rise in Louisiana as well, though so far things are not as dire here. On Saturday, the Baton Rouge region was the only one to report that it had filled more than 80 percent of its ICU capacity.
The number of new deaths in Louisiana has not yet begun to significantly climb, though it can take weeks for a patient to ultimately succumb to the virus after an initial diagnosis. A total of 88 deaths were recorded over the last week; during the height of the spring outbreak, Louisiana was seeing more than twice as many deaths.
Experts have warned that Thanksgiving and Christmas could further inflame the current outbreak and expose vulnerable and elderly populations to the virus.