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Governor: Louisiana may be peaking, but cases will stay high

January 20, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The percentage of hospital emergency room patients showing up with COVID-19-like symptoms in Louisiana has dropped for the second week in a row and the weekly percentage of positive tests also has dropped, state officials said Thursday.

State health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter, said both statistics indicate the state may be nearing a peak in its latest surge of COVID-19 cases. But, Kanter and Gov. John Bel Edwards cautioned at a Thursday news conference that cases will remain high — putting continued stress on health care facilities, school systems and businesses.

And they emphasized that if the number of new infections does begin to decline soon, it will likely happen faster in some regions than others.

“It’s not like the whole state rises and falls together,” Edwards said, during the livestreamed news conference in Baton Rouge. “There will be some regions of our state that will be in a plateau. Some will be declining, some will be descending.”

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Edwards repeated his frequent call for people to get vaccinations and boosters in a state where only 51% of the population is fully vaccinated; and, while urging people to wear protective masks, he did not announce any move to reinstitute mask mandates or other virus-related rules.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the state surpassed 1 million this week. The state reported more than 14,000 new cases and 37 deaths Thursday. And hospitalizations increased to 2,367 in the latest figures, the highest number of the current surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

The hospitalization number was last that high in early September as the state was coming off its fourth coronavirus surge that saw hospitalizations briefly surpass 3,000.

Edwards and Kanter also noted a steep climb in the number of cases of COVID-19 among people who had the infection once and have been re-infected. The number of reinfections in the state has surpassed 47,000. Edwards said 66% of the reinfections were among people not fully vaccinated.

Kanter said the latest weekly percentage of emergency department visits by people with COVID-like symptoms was 11.5%, down from more than 12% the week before and the second weekly decline. The state’s positivity rate was 27.5% for the week ending Jan. 12, down from 28.6%.