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Officials hope to be ‘ahead of the game’ in Omicron watch

Friday, December 3, 2021
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Officials in the state public health region that includes Lincoln Parish are monitoring COVID-19 data with an eye toward “being ahead of the game” should the new Omicron variant be found in Louisiana, the region’s medical director said.

“We’re just continuing to look at our numbers daily,” Dr. Jackie White said Wednesday.

The first U.S. case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron vari ant was identified earlier this week in California in a traveler who had recently returned from South Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The individual was fully vaccinated, the CDC said.

So far, no cases have been found in Louisiana. However, White said she “would not be surprised at all” if Omicron is already in the state.

Omicron is still classed as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization; not much is known about it, including how transmissible it is, White said.

White said the COVID-19 numbers in the 12-parish Region 8 are stable, though they’ve shown a slight uptick in the fast few days.

“We’re kind of on a plateau right now,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the region reported 78 confirmed new cases of the virus and one confirmed new case on Wednesday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Most all of the cases now are the Delta variant. That’s down from an Aug. 9 peak of over 5,031 confirmed cases.

In Lincoln Parish, the number of confirmed cases has been increasing slightly since mid-November, with an average of six new cases daily.

As of Wednesday, the parish recorded 4,701 confirmed cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, and 2,570 probable cases, LDH tallies show

The parish saw 59 new cases in November this year, compared to 513 cases in November of 2020.

Meantime, the parish vaccination rate stands at approximately 45% of eligible residents. The Region 8 vaccination rate is 40.2%, while the statewide rate is approximately 49% — all below the nation’s 60% vaccination rate, according to the CDC.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards extended the public health emergency in Louisiana until Dec. 22, though almost all COVID mitigation measures have been lifted, including the statewide indoor mask mandate.