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COVID claims another victim; state now in fourth surge

Sunday, July 18, 2021

COVID-19 has claimed yet another Lincoln Parish resident, bringing the confirmed death toll from the respiratory ailment to 87 since the local count began over a year ago.

The new death, reported Thursday by the Louisiana Department of Health, comes as Louisiana enters its fourth surge of COVID.

“It is unmistakable that we are in a fourth surge now,” Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s top medical officer, said Friday.

The more contagious Delta variant is now the most common strain of COVID in the state, Kanter said.

Kanter’s comments came during a press conference in which Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state’s first COVID-19 vaccine lottery winners. The state started the lottery in hopes of significantly upping the number of vaccinated Louisianans, but the statewide total still stands at about 36%.

Some 97% of the COVID cases and deaths confirmed since February have been among people who are not fully vaccinated, according to LDH.

State health officials are now urging unvaccinated individuals or those who are only partially vaccinated to once again wear masks and social distance. Because of the surge, they’re also suggesting that vaccinated individuals consider masking and social distancing indoors.

But Edwards said he isn’t considering reinstating mandatory mitigation measures yet. Instead, he’ll continue to push getting vaccinated.

“We can do this. I think we’re going to do this. We’ve got to do this. But boy, it’s painfully slow,” Edwards said.

Several Ruston healthcare providers said though they are still offering vaccinations, requests for the shots have slowed down. About 31% of eligible parish residents are fully vaccinated, according to LDH.

Meantime, authorities say their determination that a fourth wave of COVID has come is based on steady increases in the confirmed number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, a jump in the positivity rate and the death toll.

Friday’s statewide report showed 1,600 new cases and seven additional deaths.

“It’s been since sometime in March 2020 that we had a daily report where nobody died,” Edwards said.

In Lincoln Parish, total confirmed cases since March 2020 stand at 3,532. Cases have been steadily climbing in the parish since mid-June.

The parish positivity rate increased from 4.2% to 6.4% from June 30 to July 7, the latest LDH report period for positive statistics.

Some 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes are now listed in the high to highest risk category for community spread of COVID. Lincoln is in the high-risk group.

No statistics were available as to how many of the new local COVID cases are the Delta variant.