Gov. John Bel Edwards will hold a media briefing to discuss Louisiana's response to the ongoing fourth surge of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The press conference centered largely around the children of Louisiana who officials say have been the most impacted by the pandemic and by this current surge of COVID cases.
In hospitals, Governor Edwards says that practically 100 percent are Delta variant cases. Cases in children have increased with 28 percent of all new cases in children ages 0 to 17.
As schools continue to open, Edwards says it is all the more reason to do what we can to protect kids.
Not a single Louisianans under 12 has received a vaccine, Edwards stressed. Currently children under 12 are not approved to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
More cases reported through schools this school years first week than the first week last year, he stated. There were a total of 2,444 cases in schools, including teachers and students.
5,328 children and 750 staff have been reported as positive cases as far as the second week of school.
Edwards says that majority of cases in children come from outside school and are then transmitted in the school setting.
Edwards also spoke about monoclonal antibodies which he says helps to preserve hospital capacity. "It is not 100 percent and not a silver bullet." Edwards says the treatment can prevent the disease from causing the patient to need to be hospitalized.
170 providers are administering this infusion treatment. "We want to make it more accessible to people once they test positive. It is one part of our strategy. We prefer to keep people from getting COVID in the first place," he said.
The infusion does require staffing at hospitals. Edwards says that they are working with hospitals to make sure that staffing is provided to them.
Dr. Kanter with LDH says that more testing is being done for young children. He says that there was misinformation at the beginning of the pandemic that claimed that children did not get COVID. Kanter says that is not true.
Younger individuals are less likely to see severe complications due to COVID but Kanter says that that is not always the case.
In case growth, Louisiana is now number two in the country behind Mississippi.
Kanter also mentioned that LDH is recommending a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to those immunocompromised.
This would be for a small portion of the population, Kanter says, but those who are in that group can self-attest to their condition and receive their third dose. It is available in vaccine providers across the state.
On booster shots, Kanter says that the federal government is likely going to recommend boosters for those who have received their vaccine. The FDA would then have to approve that recommendation.
Kanter says that the booster option is possible in Louisiana once those shots are approved. "Once that is approved we will be ready to administer those immediately," he said.
He said that recommendations are still weeks out.
Dr. Kimberly Mukerjee was also on hand to speak on Friday. She provided insight on the pandemic from a pediatrics standpoint.
"There is no question that children have carried the heaviest weight in this pandemic," Mukerjee said.
Mukerjee directed her words to parents in the state. She says that doctors are stressing that parents keep their children safe with the tools at hand.
"We have masks and we have vaccine," she said. The Academy of pediatrics says they support the masking of children in schools.
"Now is not the time to ask what should we take away from our children, we should ask how can we protect them," she said.
Mukerjee stressed that now is not the time to politicize the mitigation measures that are put in place to help children in the state.
"Remove the arguments from this discussion," Mukerjee stated.
The Delta variant she said, is extremely transmissible in children, which shows with the higher rates of COVID positivity in children.
"We have a responsibility to mitigate the virus in children."
This week, there have been discussions over mask wearing in schools. The BESE board met on Wednesday but was forced to adjourn early after the audience would not comply with the indoor mask mandate.
When asked about discourse over masking children, Edwards says their is no right to responsibly endanger others.
He stressed that masking works to slow the spread of COVID-19. "It is not something we have to guess about, we have done this for quite some time."
Edwards said he had the expectation that masks would not be needed when school began this year, but the factors, he said, changed.
"You cannot keep schools open and children safe without masking," he said. He gave examples of other southern states that have had large COVID outbreaks in schools, which has led to school closures.
The governor encouraged parents to take another fresh look at the situation. "We should be better than that and be good neighbors."
When asked about enforcement of the masking, Edwards says that the majority of schools are implementing the indoor mask mandate.
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