HEALTHLINE: La. health leaders ‘concerned’ about national spike

HEALTHLINE: La. health leaders worried growing number of COVID-19 infections is a sign of what's to come

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Take a look at the national map and you’ll see Louisiana is an island among a sea of states seeing COVID-19 spikes. Based on previous patterns, state health leaders say that’s not a good sign, and they hope it’s not a sign of what’s to come this winter.

“Folks will remember when we had our second wave around July or so, that was preceded by really big increases in neighboring states, Texas, Arizona, Georgia particularly, so I’m concerned that this might be a warning to us,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, interim assistant secretary for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health.

Louisiana is an island among a sea of states seeing COVID-19 spikes.
Louisiana is an island among a sea of states seeing COVID-19 spikes. (Source: New York Times)

Dr. Kanter says Louisiana is seeing some preliminary signs that numbers might be going up. The statewide positivity rate is slowly climbing and is now over 5%, and COVID-19 hospitalizations also crept up the week of Oct. 19. Dr. Kanter says we should all work to keep Louisiana’s progress from slipping.

“Particularly with some holidays coming up, Halloween and then looking forward to Thanksgiving, do some real thinking about what your family’s risk profile is. Who’s in your family, what underlying conditions or vulnerabilities they might have, and make a good, educated, responsible choice for your family,” he explained.

Another concern is the “COVID-19 fatigue” setting in across the country. It has been eight months, and many are tired of wearing masks and social distancing. Dr. Kanter says those common sense measures are still the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus. He says he’s disappointed Republican lawmakers at the capitol are pushing to ease restrictions.

“I think that they’re being quite cavalier and callous with people’s lives, and if their recommendations were to go forward, I think we would regret it,” Dr. Kanter said.

Dr. Joe Kanter, interim assistant secretary for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health, speaks from his office in New Orleans.
Dr. Joe Kanter, interim assistant secretary for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health, speaks from his office in New Orleans. (Source: WAFB)

Shifting to the good news, Dr. Kanter says he’s not as worried about hospitals being overwhelmed again because medical teams have learned a lot more about treating COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic. On average, COVID-19 patients now spend less time on ventilators and in the ICU. Pharmaceutical drugs are getting better, and a vaccine should be widely available by mid-summer 2021, Dr. Kanter says.

He hopes Louisiana can stay below the national average and proceed with reopening the economy at the current slow and steady pace.

“We’ve done good. People should be really proud about what they’ve done. It’s not been easy. Let’s just keep it up,” Dr. Kanter said.

The Office of Public Health also tracks flu cases in Louisiana. Dr. Kanter says we’ve yet to see many cases, and now is the perfect time to get a flu shot.

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