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Louisiana Hospitals ‘Tipping Point’ With COVID-19 Rise

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) – Louisiana hospitals are battling a flood of coronavirus cases that threatens to disrupt the state’s health care system if the latest surge in COVID-19 patients does not diminish soon, Governor John warned. Bel Edwards. Friday.

The Democratic governor increasingly sounded the alarm about the risks of overloaded facilities with too few personnel to handle the crush of people with the coronavirus disease in addition to car accident victims, heart attack patients and others. But the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise, setting daily records for the past two weeks and reaching 2,907 patients on Friday.

While Louisiana has received some federal disaster emergency medical teams, Edwards cautioned that the staff shortage cannot be filled and hospitals can only rearrange non-emergency surgeries for a time without causing real harm to healthcare. .

“Everyone should have clear eyes on this. Our opportunities to increase our capacity are on the sidelines. These are not large numbers and we are rapidly reaching the point where we could have a major failure in our health care delivery system, ”the governor said. “And there are some people whose care is being delayed to the point where, for them, it has already failed.”

Trying to increase the state’s low vaccination rates, Edwards announced that the state will issue $ 100 cash cards to the first 75,000 college students who are newly vaccinated. The governor said he’s targeting a demographic that is experiencing some of the worst infection rates in Louisiana’s latest surge.

“Students want an in-person college experience. They want as much normalcy as possible. To do that safely, we need more gun shots, ”he said.

Ninety-one percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated, according to data from the state health department.

Dr. Amanda Logue, medical director for Ochsner Lafayette General, which has five hospitals in the Acadiana region, described the situation as “close to breaking point.”

COVID-19 patients occupy a third of their hospital beds, and that number continues to rise. Logue said it’s not uncommon for people to wait seven to nine hours for a bed in the emergency room. The health system has delayed more than 100 non-emergency surgeries each week, he said, affecting people who do not have the virus by displacing their ability to receive care.

These include procedures for people with “slow-growing tumors.” These are aneurysms. These are bypass surgeries, heart bypass and hysterectomies, ”Logue said. “They are certainly not minor to the person who is waiting for them.”

If the wave of coronavirus patients increases, he said the next steps would involve closing clinic visits for anything other than the most urgent needs so that doctors, nurses and other health care personnel can go to the beds of the patients. hospitals.

Yet, Edwards said he is unwilling to add new restrictions on business and meetings, saying that if people follow their state mask mandate and get vaccinated, that should reduce the rate of infections.

Amid the wave of viruses, organizers of the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans and the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in Lafayette announced that they will cancel the fall events and bring them into spring, joining the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. .

Only 38% of Louisiana’s population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus disease, among the lowest five states in the nation, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. people looking for their first injection has increased dramatically over the last month.

In addition to the new college student vaccine incentive, Louisiana has already awarded $ 2.3 million in cash prizes and college scholarships through a vaccine lottery designed to encourage people to get vaccinated. The winner of the $ 1 million grand prize was announced Friday: Janet Mann, 63, a retired Bossier City teacher.

Demand for the vaccine has grown strong enough that hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers that administer vaccines in Louisiana have begun dramatically increasing the doses they order.

“There was a 440% increase in the number of vaccine doses ordered the first full week of August compared to the first full week of July,” said Health Department spokeswoman Aly Neel.

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AP reporter Rebecca Santana contributed to this report from New Orleans.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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