Health officials urge social distancing through holidays as hospitals near capacity again

Officials urge Baton Rouge residents to practice social distancing through holidays to prevent hospitals from surpassing capacity

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and health leaders in Baton Rouge held a press conference Monday morning (Nov. 16), urging people to continue practicing safe social distancing as the holiday season approaches.

Officials say the recent spike in cases and patients may be attributed to Halloween festivities and “COVID fatigue.”

“We are here today to continue to encourage and implore our citizens to move in the right direction, so we don’t have to take any backward steps,” Mayor-President Broome said during her press conference.

They stressed the importance of going to the doctor’s office if you feel sick and getting a flu vaccine.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, the Louisiana Department of Health reported more than 2,500 new cases of coronavirus from Friday and Saturday. Nearly all of the new cases are a result of community spread. The greatest increase in cases continues to come from people between the ages of 18 and 29.

Schools in St. Helena and St. James Parishes, as well as Park Elementary in East Baton Rouge, are transitioning to a virtual/hybrid learning schedule as case counts rise on campus.

In a press conference on Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards reported over 700 patients in hospitals statewide, the most since early September.

Neighboring states like Texas are beginning to become overwhelmed by patients. Last Wednesday, Texas became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Some facilities are having to set up field hospitals and use refrigerated trailers again.

While the numbers are going in the wrong direction, East Baton Rouge Parish is fairing much better than the neighboring parishes such as Livingston and Ascension.

“I think a lot of us see the promise of some of the mitigation our citizens are doing and I think that’s what we need people to do, wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and getting tested and staying away from people if you’re sick,” said Dr. James Vermaelen, a physician at Our Lady of the Lake’s COVID unit. “That’s the only way right now we can prevent further spread of this.”

Edwards says Louisiana is nowhere near that point, but it could become reality if the cases continue to rise.

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