Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

COVID-19 cases in region plateau; parish, state going up

Sunday, June 28, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Graphic courtesy of KENNY CRUMP

The above graphic shows new COVID-19 cases recorded in Lincoln Parish since the outbreak began here in mid-March.

After a number of weeks as one of Louisiana’s COVID-19 hotspots, North Louisiana’s public health Region 8 has apparently plateaued.

“Things are at a steady state in Region 8,” Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for Bureau of Community Preparedness at the Louisiana Department of Health, said Friday.

And though the Lincoln Parish-inclusive region has seen an increase in hospitalizations over the last two months, they are not primarily because of COVID-19. Instead most of the increase appears to come from patients who put off other procedures because of the public health emergency.

Welch said the region’s coronavirus hospitalizations are steady, if not down.

Region 8 includes Lincoln, Union, Jackson, Ouachita, Franklin, Richland, Morehouse, Caldwell, Madison, East Carroll, West Carroll and Tensas parishes.

As of noon Friday, there were 5,007 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, with 300 of those in Lincoln Parish, according to the latest LDH posting. Statewide, that’s a jump of 1,354 cases overnight, and in Lincoln Parish, a jump of six cases.

COVID-19 is the potentially fatal respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Louisiana has been battling the virus since March.

Welch said officials believe the statewide total is underrepresented.

“Those are just the ones we know about,” he said.

Welch attributed the Region 8 case bulge that occurred about a month ago to ramped-up testing.

“But what worries me is (cases) going up everywhere else,” he said.

And so are hospitalizations. On Friday, 700 people statewide were hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s up from 630 on Monday.

Health officials say new cases of COVID-19 statewide now are out pacing what would have resulted from increased testing alone. Since Monday, Louisiana has added almost 5,000 cases.

Welch indicated the uptick in cases appears to be the result of people moving about more and doing as the economy reopens.

“People thought of that as ‘oh, we’re returning to normal,” Welch said.

But that wasn’t — and isn’t — true, he said.

“It’s an infectious disease. It goes from one person to another,” Welch said.

Officials say as much as 95% of the increase is community spread, that is, spread from one person to another not in a congregate setting such as nursing homes, but simply being out and about.

That’s why Welch, Gov. John Bel Edwards and others continue to remind people to wear masks in public, social distance and wash their hands frequently.

The strategies “are so simple, but they actually really work,” Welch said.

He said it would take “a lot” for Louisiana to move backward in reopening phases, but that depends on whether people adhere to the COVID-19 containment strategies.

“We don’t want to take those steps backward, and the way not to do that is with those three simple things,” Welch said.

Because of the increase in COVID-19 cases and the jump in related hospitalizations, Louisiana will remain in Phase Two of economic reopening for at least another 28 days.

The new order, issued by Edwards on Thursday, leaves in place occupancy and other restrictions of the previous Phase Two order and adds a crowd size limit of 250 to indoor gatherings.