La. state health officer discusses latest COVID status after holidays

As we start 2023, WAFB sat down with Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health, who’s been the main face you’ve seen since the start of the pand
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 5:41 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 7:17 AM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health experts predicted to see a rise in COVID cases after the holidays and it’s what we’re seeing right now in Louisiana.

As we start 2023, WAFB sat down with Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health, who’s been the main face you’ve seen since the start of the pandemic.

Kanter said we’re in an okay place. They have seen an increase in COVID counts over the past few weeks through the holidays. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be translated into a lot of hospitalizations.

He said this is similar to the surge we had a few months ago. A lot of COVID was being transmitted, but we didn’t overwhelm the hospitals.

This is a marker that we’re getting further out of the acute phase of the pandemic and into a longer-term case of COVID. Kanter said we can’t expect the virus to go away. It will be with us for a while like the flu and RSV, but it won’t overwhelm Louisiana.

Everyone six months and older can get the updated bivalent booster shots.

“I think that’s what we’re seeing now is more cases, more transmission which is understandable given the holidays and people gathering, but thankfully, because at this point, about 95% of the state has either had COVID in the past, been vaccinated, or both,” said Kanter. “Thankfully, these cases are not severe cases and they’re not overwhelming the hospitals the way we did earlier in the pandemic.”

Everyone six months and older can get the updated bivalent booster shots. As you may have noticed, this is a different booster shot from the initial vaccines. The initial vaccines were targeted solely against the original strand of COVID. The virus has mutated many times since then.

The updated booster shots add a more recent form of COVID, including one of the omicron variants we’ve already dealt with.

LDH reported in December that the flu is at its highest level in five years. This comes as health experts nationwide have also been concerned about the tripledemic - or COVID, RSV, and the flu - going around at once. Kanter said we’re at a much better place than other states.

“To be honest, Louisiana has been very fortuitous the past few weeks with these respiratory viruses. Other parts of the country have not been so lucky. Other parts of the country have been seeing COVID and flu and RSV all hit them at the exact same time and that’s terrible news for hospitals because hospitals are already very busy on most flu seasons,” explained Kanter.

He said thankfully that hasn’t been the case this season in Louisiana. We had an early RSV peak a few months ago and our flu season seems to be coming down right now.

Congress has been looking for ways to continue to fund a lot of the federal COVID work, but at some point, these vaccines are no longer going to be free.

They do expect insurance and Medicaid to cover it.

For others, there could be a charge.

This isn’t happening yet so get your vaccine now while it’s still covered.

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