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Gov. urges residents to vaccinate as state sees surge in cases, Delta variant

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Posted at 6:48 AM, Jul 16, 2021

On Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards held a media briefing on Louisiana's response to COVID-19.

The press conference was held at 11:00 am at the Louisiana State Capitol.

During the press conference, Gov. Edwards called on Louisianans to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by getting their vaccinations.

The state, according to Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health, is entering its fourth surge as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise among unvaccinated residents.

Between February and July of 2021, unvaccinated people in Louisiana were 20 times more likely to become ill with COVID-19.

“If you have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine and you’re 12 or older, it’s time to run, not walk, to one of the more than 1,400 locations where it is readily available all across the state of Louisiana,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Delta variant of COVID is now the dominant strain in Louisiana and without the protection that the safe and effective vaccines offer, you are far more likely to become ill with COVID in Louisiana. Our hospitals are again stretched thin with limited staff capacity, and the vast majority of COVID patients are not yet fully vaccinated against the illness."

“To those who are vaccinated, thank you for taking this important step to protect yourselves and those around you. Today, I’m drafting you all into advocacy for vaccination against COVID-19, because research shows that many people who had questions changed their minds after hearing from doctors, family members and friends,” Gov. Edwards said. “Please, reach out to the people in your life who you know have not been vaccinated and have private conversations with them about their questions, fears and the barriers they may face in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Help them get good information about how safe it is, and explain that you care about them and want them to be protected. Consider assisting them in getting an appointment or even offering transportation to get the shot. We’re all in this together and we can turn things around — but we have a limited time to do so.”

“COVID-19 cases are surging among the unvaccinated in Louisiana. It’s not one outbreak, it’s not one region. This is a statewide problem,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer. “And because our statewide vaccination rate is too low everyone is at elevated risk and should take precautions immediately for the safety of themselves and their families.”

LDH shared the following guidance for individuals in Louisiana:

  • If you are not yet fully vaccinated you should mask and distance in public settings and particularly indoors, for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
  • If you are fully vaccinated you have very good, but not absolute protection. Your risk, while relatively small, will increase as the amount of COVID-19 circulating in your community increases. Masking and distancing particularly when indoors will increase your safety should you desire extra protection.
  • If you are at increased risk for complications of COVID-19 by virtue of advanced age or underlying medical condition or have a member of your household family unit who is, LDH strongly recommends you consider masking and distancing when indoors and/or in close proximity to others for added protection.

Facts about the Delta variant

Having had COVID-19 before does not offer protection against the Delta variant, which is much more contagious and is now the dominant strain in Louisiana and the country. Getting any one of the three vaccines, however, has proven to be effective against COVID-19 in general and the Delta variant specifically, LDH says.

They say the current pace of vaccinations and the spread of the more contagious Delta variant has caused Louisiana’s COVID-19 trends to worsen:

  • The number of new cases diagnosed each day in Louisiana has been increasing since June 16 and is now increasing in all nine regions of the state. The statewide average daily number of cases per 100,000 residents has increased 177% over the past 14 days.
  • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Louisiana has been increasing for the past 14 days, with 245 additional hospitalized patients added during that time, as of today's reporting. That is double the number from two weeks ago.
  • Statewide percent positivity of new COVID-19 tests conducted is now 6.3% and has been increasing for the past five weeks.
  • During the past week, 35 new outbreaks and 200 new outbreak-associated cases have been identified. This represents a 169% increase in the number of reported outbreaks and a 96% increase in the number of outbreak-associated cases compared to the previous week. The settings with the greatest outbreak increases included camps, child day cares, religious services and restaurants. In addition to the widespread circulation of the more transmissible Delta variant, insufficient masking and distancing, especially among unvaccinated individuals, are also contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in these settings.

LDH says that getting a COVID-19 vaccine remains the best way of protecting against COVID-19.

While the protection provided by each of the three currently available COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) is very good against COVID-19 and the variants currently spreading in Louisiana, the protection is not absolute.

LDH says officials are aware of a small number of “breakthrough cases,” or individuals who contracted COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

So far, more than 184 million Americans – including more than 1.8 million Louisianans – have taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC says 99.2% of all COVID-19 deaths are in unvaccinated people.

The Delta variant is currently the dominant strain in Louisiana.

How to get a COVID vaccine in Louisiana

Everyone aged 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. The FDA has only authorized one of the three COVID-19 vaccines – from Pfizer – for children ages 12 to 17. Parents should confirm with the vaccine provider that their child is under 18 to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available before making an appointment.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are widely available at 1,437 locations in all of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including at pharmacies, hospitals, health care clinics and doctor’s offices.
  • For a list of locations, visit LDH’s vaccine directory or visit vaccines.gov, which is maintained by the federal government.
  • To get a list of vaccine locations near you text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish.
  • If you have questions, would like to speak with a medical professional, or need help scheduling an appointment, call Louisiana’s vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774.

The state says there has been an increase in the number of vaccinations due, in part, to the state's "Shot At A Million" campaign.

“We saw a bump in vaccinations when we announced Shot At A Million. This is good news – we are now in the most challenging phase of the vaccine rollout to date, and this is now a game of inches. But we do need more residents to go sleeves up to protect themselves and their loved ones against this more contagious variant,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer, said.

The state announced the winner of the first "Shot At A Million" lottery drawing on Friday. Read more, here.

Friday, July 16, is also the deadline to enter for the second $100,000 drawing on July 21. Residents have until 11:59 pm to register.

For more information on the "Shot At A Million" lottery campaign visit ShotAtAMillion.com.

For the latest data from LDH on the coronavirus in Louisiana, visit ldh.la.gov/coronavirus.

Tyler Duplantis, with the Houma Nation was in attendance at the press conference, he spoke about his experience with COVID-19 and the effects on his community.

He says that many elders in the community, who he says played an important role in his culture, had died. Duplantis says that as soon as he was able to get the vaccine, he know that he would.

The Houma Nation's annual Pow Wow was put on hold during the pandemic, blocking a very vital event which is used to share the culture of the Houma Nation with the outside communities.

"I am not here saying you have to get the vaccine. I am here telling you that you should talk to professional and get the information you need to get vaccinated," he said.

Dr. Katherine O'neal with Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge says that the Delta variant seems to be targeting younger people more. She says they are seeing more and more children being admitted to hospitals.

In hospitals, O'Neal says that patients are running out of beds again. "We are being overwhelmed and it is happening really fast," she said.

O'Neal said that the people that are getting COVID today are younger individuals. "If you don't chose the vaccine, you are choosing death. We know that pandemics last for years, we are educated people. The way to get past this is with a vaccine."

O'Neal reiterated that with the Delta variant surge, other variants may come from this.

Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisina Department of Health says that the state is now in its 4th surge of COVID-19 cases. "The risk out there to you is higher in Louisiana even than it was two or three weeks ago," he said.

Kanter went over percent positivity and cases in each Region in the state. In Region 4 which includes Acadiana, case have been going up consistently over the past 24 days. Percent positivity has increased to 6.7 percent. 85 patients are hospitalized for COVID-19.

The trend continued across all Regions.

Kanter reiterated that cases of COVID-19 are becoming more and more common in younger individuals. Kanter, however says the median age for hospitalization and death is 72 years old.

The Delta variant is the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in Louisiana.

85 percent of nursing home residents in Louisiana have received at least one vaccination. Cases in those places have dropped dramatically. Kanter said only single cases have been recorded in those locations.

Kanter said if you are not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated that it is recommended you wear a mask indoors. If you are fully vaccinated and at an increased risk of getting sick, Kanter says you should consider masking indoors or when around other people.

"Families should take a step back and take stock of what is at risk now," Kanter said.

Edwards says that mitigation measures are not currently be considered because a vaccine is fully available to residents.

"I am not considering re-imposing any mitigation measures or mandates. We are not there yet," he said.

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