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Gov. briefing discusses COVID-19, potential for winter weather

Gov. Edwards
Posted at 11:07 AM, Jan 20, 2022

Louisiana's Omicron wave is probably peaking now, said Joseph Kanter, MD, State Health Officer at Louisiana Department of Health said during today's COVID briefing.

Gov. John Bel Edwards held a briefing about COVID and the weather today.

"We're likely in the process of peaking now. You never know for sure until you're on the other side of that," Kanter said. "It's likely that certain parts of the state will still experience increasing numbers even when the state as a whole is showing that numbers have peaked."

Numbers will still be high coming down, but they'll be going in the right direction, he said. Now and in the next couple of weeks, there's just more COVID out there than at any time, Kanter add.

"We remain deep in this omicron surge," Kanter said.

People need to be aware that there's a lot of risk of being exposed to the very transmissible variant, he said.

Data regarding re-infections has been added to the state's COVID dashboard, the governor said, and as expected the majority of re-infections - about 66 percent - are among people who aren't fully vaccinated. A higher percentage - 83 percent - of re-infection related deaths are among people who aren't fully vaccinated. Re-infections are considered to be a positive test followed by another positive test, with at least 90 days in between. The amount of re-infections that are being reported have increased six-fold since last year, Kanter said.

This underscores the need for boosters, he said.

Edwards said that there were more than 70 outbreaks reported in the state that weren't related to congregant living settings. That's more than at any other point in the pandemic, he said. More than half of them were among retail workers who weren't masking, he added.

There also have been a dramatic increase in cases among nursing home staff, as well as an increase in cases among nursing home residents. That being said, Kanter added that there hasn't yet been a corresponding increase in deaths, he said.

"We're also seeing startling numbers among young adults and children," the governor said. "We've had six deaths in the 18 and 29 age group since January 1."

That's six people in 20 days - compared to 117 over the past two years in that age group, he said.

The largest percent of hospitalized COVID patients are ages zero to four, he said. More than 8,000 infections were reported over the week among school children, he said. Since January 1, almost 200 children have been hospitalized with COVID, Kanter added.

Since people younger than 5 can't get vaccinated, it's important that families get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks and take precautions for the children in their lives, both men said.

Kanter also talked about the need to wear the best masks - the best-fitting, highest-quality mask you can find.

On the weather, Edwards said there will be cold weather throughout the state, but the danger is in Southeast Louisiana, where precipitation is expected overnight creating a possibility for accumulation. The National Weather Service talked in terms of a "glaze," or less than a tenth of an inch - and it won't last beyond the afternoon, Edwards said.

There will be cold weather all over the state for the next several days, he said.

"I want to urge people to understand that forecasts are forecasts," he said. "We need to pay attention, but the bottom line is we're expecting at least a trace of wintry precipitation in Southeast Louisiana and freezing temperatures across most of the state."

Emergency officials are ready to help, and have fielded a few calls for assistance from local governments, the governor said.

No state office closures are going to be made, but some local governments may call closures, including schools, so pay attention, Edwards said.

He also asked everyone to check on their elderly neighbors to be sure they have what they need, to practice caution with space heaters. No power outages are expected, Edwards said.

The Governor is also expected to speak about the potential for winter weather and freezing temperatures across the state.

The press conference will take place at 3:00 pm in Baton Rouge and will be streamed on the governor's Facebook page.

The bitter cold weather arrived in Louisiana on Thursday morning following a cold front. That front brought showers to most of the state and caused temperatures to plummet to the coldest so far this winter.

A hard freeze is expected for later on Thursday night and into Friday morning.

Freezing temperatures should continue until Sunday.

See the latest forecast from the KATC Weather Team: A round of bitter cold weather arrives in Acadiana

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