Aug. 3, 2021 -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that the statewide indoor mask mandate would restart on Wednesday to combat the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the very contagious Delta variant.

The mask mandate will apply to ages 5 and older in indoor public locations, regardless of vaccination status. It will remain in effect until at least Sept. 1.

Edwards lifted the statewide mask mandate in April. On Monday, he pointed to statistics that show Louisiana has the highest number of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation.

“This is bad. And it’s not this bad anywhere else in the country today,” he said during a news briefing with state hospital leaders, according to The Associated Press.

“It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID,” he said. “In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this is just another surge. This is the worst one we’ve had.”

Delivering COVID-19 Vaccines to Hesitant CommunitiesWebMD's Chief Medical Officer, John Whyte, MD, speaks with Jerry Abraham, MD, MPH, Director, Vaccine Programs, Kedren Health, South Los Angeles, about delivering COVID-19 vaccines to hesitant communities.470

[MUSIC PLAYING]

JOHN WHYTE: Welcome, everyone.

You're watching Coronavirus

in Context.

I'm Dr. John Whyte, the Chief

Medical Officer at WebMD.

A recent study showed

that for those persons that are

currently unvaccinated,

a very large percentage of them

say that they're not going

to get vaccinated no matter

what.

It doesn't matter what you tell

them.

So what do we do?

Joining me is Dr. Jerry Abraham.

He's the director of the vaccine

program at Kedren Health

in South Los Angeles.

Dr. Abraham, thanks for joining.



JERRY ABRAHAM: Hello.

How are you, Dr. Whyte?



JOHN WHYTE: I'm good.

Now I have to tell viewers

we literally made you stop

driving because you're

in a mobile van

out in the community giving

shots in arms, is that right?



JERRY ABRAHAM: Yeah, that's

really where we are

from those crazy long lines

back in December, January,

February

to now mobile vaccination

programs that are meeting people

where they live,

work, worship, play,

go to school.

We're vaccinating the homebound.

It takes a lot more effort,

but it really does mean

that they put us behind vans.

We take our vaccines out

into the community

and we really,

unlike the early days of vaccine

chasers, we're vaccine hunters

looking for unvaccinated arms

that still need vaccines.



JOHN WHYTE: What's the response

you've been getting?

Because we know in Los Angeles

County, cases are increasing

dramatically.

And it's because of people who

are unvaccinated.

Let's put it out there.

Breakthrough infections

is a small percentage of that.

So what's been the response?

Is it stay out of my business,

I was too busy.

What's going on?

How are you being successful?



JERRY ABRAHAM: Yeah.

Well, first, I'll just say you

said there are some folks that

will never want one.

But we are seeing many anecdotes

and stories around the country

people begging for vaccines

as they're being put

on ventilators, taken to ICUs,

really it's far too late

at that point.

So lots of things

can change people's minds.



We're hoping that the incentives

to help.

We definitely believe

that reminding people

about family members, community

members that we lost,

that suffered,

just really reminding people

how serious a threat COVID-19

infection really is.

The reality of long haulers

and all that we still don't know

about how COVID-19 infection

affects the body, all of that

helps.



There are clearly reasons why

some eager beavers got

vaccinated for 65 and older.

It was a matter of life

and death, and they knew that.

But for the young invincibles,

those that feel that they can

work out and eat healthy

and sleep off COVID-19,

those arguments don't always

work.

So sometimes some

of these incentives work.



But really meeting people where

they are,

answering their questions,

telling them what we know;

the truth, what we don't know.

This is not going to affect

their reproductive organs.

It doesn't affect fertility.

We're not altering your DNA.

You're not going to grow a tail.

And those things really mean

a lot coming from doctors

and clinicians.



JOHN WHYTE: How much time

do you need to spend

with someone.

I'm sure it's just not

as easy as moving your van

around almost like an ice cream

truck.

I have this idea of you

in there.

People aren't just going to come

up and say give me a vaccine,

or is that what you're seeing

and we're not really

understanding what

the challenges are with vaccine

hesitancy?



JERRY ABRAHAM: It really does

feel like an ice cream truck.

The county and la Unified School

District really wants us

to pivot to all childhood

vaccines and helping people

catch up.

These last few 20 months plus

have been hard on people.

People have not been getting

their routine health preventive

maintenance.



And so in addition

to these COVID-19 vaccines,

in addition to COVID testing,

of course, people need

all vaccines.

So it does very much start

to feel like you're pulling up

to an ice cream truck

and ordering off of a menu.

But I do think part of it

is meeting people where they

are, in the housing

developments,

at factories, churches,

at their school,

in their community, that means

a lot.

We hear that all the time.



Doctors must be serious.

You came all the way out here

to find me to get us vaccinated.

I'm going to listen.

I'm going to take you seriously.

You haven't done that

for anything else.

If it wasn't serious,

you wouldn't have come here.

We've really stripped

every barrier that stood

in the way between people

and their vaccines:

no appointment, no internet,

no email, no cell phone.

I don't have transportation.

I can't see, walk, talk.

I don't speak English.

I don't have documentation

status in this country.



None of those reasons

are reasons to not get

vaccinated, and now we're

realizing maybe going

to a clinic and hospital is not

really possible for a lot

of folks.

And we really got to move

the care outside of the four

walls of the traditional health

care delivery model.

And I'm really excited that I

believe that this is really

an important vehicle, literally,

for how we're going to deliver

and revolutionize how we care

for people,

starting with giving

these vaccines out to people.



And it's not olive branch,

it's that conversation.

It's that visibility,

and that really builds trust

especially

in the black and brown community

where we know there are

real fears

about experimentation, where we

know the history is lived

and real.

The Tuskegee syphilis trials,

the abuse of Henrietta Lacks

cells, undertreatment

of black pain

in our communities.



These are real things

that my patients are struggling

with.

So I totally understand where

people might fear,

might not trust, may wonder why

are you all doing this?

Why are you coming after us so

hard?

And we have to tell them

because these are the best tools

that we really have at ending

this pandemic.



JOHN WHYTE: What has surprised

you in your interactions

with people other than the fact

that they see you in a van?

What have they said that you

thought, I hadn't thought

about that?



JERRY ABRAHAM: People are

reading.

People are getting

their information, whether it's

on social media, Instagram,

TikTok, Twitter.

People are waiting

for the emergency use

authorization, for full FDA

approval, for example.

Some people want to wait

a full year.

Some people want their children

to be through puberty.

There's some interesting things,

"I want to have my baby first."

So these are all

real considerations that people

are grappling with.



So I have to remind people,

America's obstetricians

and gynecologists

recommend these vaccines

for people that are going to get

pregnant, that are pregnant,

that are breastfeeding,

that recent studies show there

are no associations

with these vaccines

and affecting people's fertility

or reproductive organs.



We really have to do a lot

of that health literacy patient

engagement,

helping people understand

the science, the facts,

the truth, because they are

asking very important questions,

and they want to wait.

The only problem is we really

don't have any more time to wait

as the Delta variant is

spreading.

We're definitely at the dawn

of this fourth wave

here in LA

and across the country.



And so everybody that's holding

out on getting vaccinated

is just really another host

that this virus can infect,

and that only means that there's

a potential for more variants

down the road.

So I really beg and plead

everyone to please get

vaccinated if you haven't.



JOHN WHYTE: Dr. Jerry Abraham, I

want to thank you for all

that you are doing.

You are literally

on the front lines,

going to people and delivering

them the vaccine.

So thank you for what you are

doing.



JERRY ABRAHAM: Thank you so much

Dr. Whyte.

Real pleasure speaking with you.



JOHN WHYTE: And if you have

questions about the COVID

vaccine, drop us a line.

You can email me

at [email protected] or post

on Instagram, Facebook,

or Twitter.

Thanks for watching.



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John Whyte, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, WebMD.<br>Jerry Abraham, MD, MPH, Director, Vaccine Programs, Kedren Health, South Los Angeles./delivery/aws/6e/08/6e084fa8-f47c-3420-bfeb-f2a0974e93b0/Abraham_072721_v4_,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,400k,.mp407/30/2021 12:00:0018001200Abraham_072721_1800x1200_v4/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/covid19-images/Abraham_072721_1800x1200_v4.jpg091e9c5e82202f43

The announcement came as the state’s largest hospital -- Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge -- ran out of beds and called in a disaster medical assistance team to help with the surge in patients. COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped from 36 to 155 patients in 2 weeks.

“There are no beds left,” Catherine O’Neal, MD, the chief medical officer for the hospital, said on Monday.

“These are the darkest days of this pandemic,” she said. “We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients.”

Edwards noted that circumstances would grow worse in the short term and that the state would likely report the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations so far during the pandemic on Tuesday. The number of patients is close to 2,000, which is 7 times the number of patients a month ago, the AP reported.

Edwards and O’Neal urged unvaccinated residents to get a shot to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, the AP reported, which has allowed the Delta variant to spread among unvaccinated residents. About 43% of the state population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 37% is fully vaccinated.

During his presentation, Edwards also encouraged people to follow other precautions, such as avoiding crowded settings, getting tested after COVID-19 exposure, and working remotely when possible.

“We have the tools we need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives, and I am pleading with unvaccinated Louisianans to get their shot as soon as they can to protect themselves,” he said. “We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it.”

WebMD Health News

Sources

The Associated Press: “Louisiana reinstates indoor mask mandate amid COVID surge.”

Facebook: Governor John Bel Edwards, Aug. 2, 2021.

News release, state of Louisiana, Aug. 2, 2021.

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