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La. top medical official doesn’t expect a COVID surge after Mardi Gras

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:21 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:25 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As Carnival 2022 ramps up, the health care system LCMC health says the city’s Level 1 trauma center, University Medical Center, and other hospitals it operates are ready for Mardi Gras patients. Meanwhile, State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter says while it is impossible to be sure, he does not think the parade season will send COVID-19 cases soaring.

Dr. Jeffrey Elder is the medical director for emergency management at UMC and LCMC Health.

“Our emergency departments across the city are ready, you know, to handle the influx of patients,” said Elder. “Alcohol intoxication, some falls, you know, some broken bones, occasionally we do have more critically injured patients, you know, that come in and so our trauma centers are ready, we’re ready.”

As the Omicron variant wanes, Kanter was asked during a virtual press event if families should feel comfortable about attending parades.

“If a family is not in a thick crowd towards the back, if there’s space around them, that’s lower risk, it’s not zero risk,” Kanter stated.

He said his family plans to attend parades.

“My family will be going to parades, we’ll be staying in the back. If we happen to find ourselves in a thicker crowd than we anticipated, we’ll be wearing a mask. That’s how I’m going to keep my family safe,” said Kanter.

Despite many people having been exposed to the Omicron variant Kanter and Elder say unvaccinated people and those with compromised immune systems should weigh the risks of attending parades.

“With the illnesses that we saw shoot up just a couple of weeks ago I do think we have a lot of protection out there, but I think, you know, for some people especially those who are immuno-compromised or unvaccinated they’re still at risk and so for those people I would say you really need to think about is it worth going out into large crowds,” said Elder.

Kanter said, “The risk is not zero, even if vaccinated, even if masked.”

He was asked if he thought Mardi Gras would serve as a COVID super spreader.

“I think [carnival] balls, in particular, are higher-risk activities,” Kanter said. “It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen with COVID, and every attempt that we’ve had to do that, we’ve been humbled in that process. That said, I don’t see Mardi Gras causing us to have another spike particularly because of the timing.”

Kanter said some hospitals in the state remain stressed.

“Both because their overall volume is higher than it would be this particular part of the year than prior years and because the staffing shortage is still very much in effect statewide,” he said.

Elder said the number of health care workers in the LCMC Healthy system that is sick is much lower than a few weeks ago.

“Our hospitalizations are in a much better place and then our total number of hospital employees or health care workers that are sick are at a much lower place than what we were, you know, just a few weeks ago. We’re really, we’re about 10% roughly of where we were, you know, just a couple of weeks ago with those that were out ill,” said Elder.

Elder also provided tips for reducing the odds of needing an emergency room during the carnival season.

He began with booze.

“The biggest thing that we see is, you know, drink in moderation. I think that’s our biggest thing, remember to stay hydrated, so if you are having a cocktail or a beer make sure you’re dispersing that with fluids that are not alcoholic like water,” said Elder.

He also reminded parents about ladder rules.

“Remember a ladder needs to be at least 6 feet away from the curb,” said Elder. “There should always be an adult present when there’s a kid on the ladder.”

And he recommends parents take a photo of their children before heading to the parade route.

“Take a picture of them as you go out to the parade route with the clothes that they’re wearing that day, that if you do get separated from your kids and you have to go to the police you have a picture of what the child looks like that day,” said Elder.

He said there will be first aid stations on parades routes through an LCMC partnership with the city.

“They’ll be there also to help with some of the minor kind of first aid needs and if there is another injury that requires, you know, EMS or a larger response they’re available to help coordinate getting those folks to the site,” said Elder.

Elder said the following locations will be used for first-aid stations:

  • Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles Avenue
  • Washington Avenue at St. Charles Avenue
  • The Circle at Howard Avenue
  • Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue

And for the Endymion Parish the first-aid stations will be at South Carrollton Avenue and Bienville Street and North Broad and Canal Street.

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