Aug. 5, 2021 -- With COVID-19 surging among a largely unvaccinated population, Louisiana is producing a glut of patients that is pushing hospitals and medical facilities to the brink.

The surge is so overwhelming that a 33-member federal disaster assistance team arrived last week to help one of the state’s biggest hospitals, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, deal with the crush of new COVID patients, the hospital said in a news release.

The 988-bed hospital said an average of one infected patient is being admitted every hour, with a large majority of the patients unvaccinated and many under 50 years old.

“There are no beds left. These are the darkest days of this pandemic. We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients,” Catherine O’Neal, MD, the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake, said on Twitter this week.

The state is averaging more than 4,300 new cases per day, The New York Times reported, and has the highest per-capita infection rate in the nation. The state COVID-19 dash board says Louisiana now has more than 2,200 people hospitalized with COVID and has recorded more than 562,000 cases and 11,129 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Louisiana also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. Only 37% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, compared to the national rate of just under 50%.

But the recent surge in cases appears to be helping people overcome vaccine resistance. Demand for vaccinations has nearly quadrupled in recent weeks, according to the Times.

Madeline LeBlanc, 24, of Baton Rouge, said she decided to get the shot because she didn’t want to endanger other people.

“I don’t want to be the one inhibiting someone else’s health,” she told the newspaper.

“The public is finally hearing how bad it has gotten,” Robert C. Peltier, MD, the chief medical officer for North Oaks Health System in Hammond, told the Times.

North Oaks is struggling with a new stream of patients. The hospital had 93 COVID patients on a recent day who ranged in age from 20 to 85, the Times said. Previously, the highest number of patients was 65, back in December.

While the hospital has room for more patients, it’s short on staff, with more than 60 employees out with COVID last week and about 40 others out for other reasons, according to the Times.

Gov. John Bel Edwards recently reimposed a statewide face mask mandate to slow transmission and reduce the demand on the hospital system. Saying the current surge is worse in Louisiana than any other place in the nation, he urged officials throughout the state to cooperate in the fight against COVID.

“Do you give a damn?” he said at a news conference. “I hope you do. I do. I’ve heard it said often, Louisiana is the most pro-life state in the nation. I want to believe that. It ought to mean something. In this context, it ought to mean something.”

A doctor put the battle into sporting terms.
“We’re in the fourth round of this boxing match, and this opponent is stronger, he’s bigger, he’s better, he’s smarter than us, but it’s going to take a one-two punch to knock this opponent down,” Phyllis Mason, MD, chief medical officer of Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, said at the same news conference. “It’s going to take the vaccine and it’s going to take masking. It’s a one-two punch.”

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Our Lady of the Lake: “Disaster Medical Assistance Team Arrives at Our Lady of the Lake to Support COVID-19 Surge.”

Twitter: @ololhealth, Aug. 2, 2021.

The New York Times: “Alarmed Louisiana Residents Turn to Vaccines in ‘Darkest Days’ of Pandemic.”

State of Louisiana COVID Dashboard.

Rev: “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 2.”

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