LDH updated on COVID-19 in the state, including safety for the Mardi Gras holiday and what new guidelines schools can expect.
Dr. Joseph Kanter says that the state's cases have peaked and we are now moving on a downward trend. The state is still in but coming down from the 5th, Omicron-fueled surge.
"We continue to move in the right direction. However, the entire state continues to experience very high levels of COVID-19 transmission," LDH says.
All 64 parishes are still at the highest risk level. LDH says layered strategies are how the state stays safe while there is so much COVID circulating throughout the state. They recommend getting vaccinated & boosted if eligible, masking up, working remotely if possible, and limiting exposure to people outside immediate households.
Hospitalizations remain high in Louisiana but LDH hopes that the stresses hospitals are facing now will soon alleviate. COVID-19 deaths, Kanter says, are still significant. Omicron is mild he says but the numbers still add up with each update.
Kanter says because the peak of Omicron was so high, it will take a while until that risk will come down to a baseline.
Vaccinations are still struggling, Kanter says. "We are not where we need to be."
In January 2022, 58,540 Louisianans received their first COVID-19 shots, and 134,376 booster shots were administered.
Guidance from the CDC shows that booster recommendations have changed from 6 months to 5months after your second vaccination. The other change is with immune-compromised individuals. Kanter says the CDC recommends boosting at 3 months after their second vaccine dose.
When it comes to Mardi Gras, Kanter says that there are a lot more tools to protect the public. He says that families should take stock of their own safety.
Wearing masks and social distancing should be done. Vaccination is also recommended before the Mardi Gras events begin. People who are sick should stay home and away from parades and events.
To celebrate Mardi Gras more safely, LDH recommends:
- Mask more, mask better
- Get vaccinated & boosted, if eligible
- Stay home & get tested if you are sick
- Consider staying home from larger events if you are at higher risk for disease
Even if vaccinated and masks, there is still some risk he says. "People need to make an educated decision for themselves if they are at increased risk of getting sick," he said.
Free N95 masks will be distributed in the state due to the federal government. Kanter says that Walmart, Winn-Dixies, Sam's Clubs, and some Walgreens in the state will be providing these masks.
Contact tracing in the state, Kanter says, is slowing down in the state. He says that the need for contact tracing is not as necessary as it was at the beginning. Newly tested individuals will no longer receive a phone call, but they will receive a text message with information and resources for those who test positive.
A COVID-19 Community Support Hotline is still being provided. If you test positive and have questions, call 877-766-2130 to get answers.
For schools, new guidance has come out from LDH and the CDC regarding quarantining.
For in-person learning for K-12 and daycare-age students, LDH says that adherence to all CDC guidance has caused some disruptions for schools. LDH provided additional guidance giving options for schools regarding quarantines and masking.
Isolation recommendations are for those who are sick or test positive for COVID, LDH says. Those people must quarantine for 5 days. After symptom improvement, they will be allowed to return to school but must mask for 5 days after
For quarantine (students exposed but who have not tested positive). There are three options.
- Standard quarantine guidance
- Test to stay option
- Universal Masking
- Option 1 is the safest and follows current CDC Guidelines. All close contacts should quarantine at home for 10 days. Should a close contact test positive, see isolation guidance.
- Option 2 is considered a safer option and requires close contacts to quarantine at home for 5 days. If they remain asymptomatic, they can return to the childcare center on day 6 with a negative COVID-19 test administered no earlier than day 5. A second COVID-19 test should be administered between days 7-10.
- Option 3 is an acceptable option and allows for close contacts to NOT quarantine if they remain asymptomatic and have negative COVID-19 tests administered four times over 10 days. Two tests should be administered during days 0-5 following the last point of contact and two tests should be administered during days 6-10.
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