‘Now is the time to act,’ warn NWLA community leaders as COVID cases rise

SHREVEPORT, Louisiana (KTAL / KMSS) – Research experts, medical professionals and community leaders issued an urgent warning Friday morning as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise with the emergence of the new variant Delta, fending off misinformation about vaccines and the mask-wearing.

“The reason we have scheduled this conference today is to convey to our community that now is the time to take action to prevent our beloved community from being sidelined due to the rise. of COVID in the community, “LSU Health Shreveport Vice Chancellor for Research Dr Chris Kevil said at a press conference.

“Without a change of course, we could soon revert to the old restrictions and more important, and sadly, lose more lives,” Kevil warned from a podium with a sign reading, “We are all in this pandemic together.”

The Mayor of Shreveport, Adrian Perkins, also announced during the briefing that he was issuing a mask advisory for the town of Shreveport and encouraging citizens to wear masks indoors.

“Since the start of this public health emergency, we have relied on our medical experts for advice. They are now warning us of the threat the highly transmissible Delta variant poses to our unvaccinated residents, ”said Perkins.

“I’m afraid what we’ll see if we don’t start paying attention to what we’re seeing right now,” warned Dr. Martha Whyte, medical director of Louisiana Department of Health Region 7. “We’re on a rise fast and we’re going to see more people – then what’s coming is more deaths. So we’ve seen more sick people, then we’ve seen more people hospitalized, and then we’re going to see more youth deaths. So please consider getting vaccinated.

Dr Whyte also opposed misinformation about vaccine safety.

“These are very safe vaccines. Someone said to me, ‘This is a risk-benefit analysis, Dr Whyte. This is why I am not taking the vaccine. Well, no one died from this vaccine. Not in this state, no one died from this vaccine. And we had 610,000 people died in this country from the virus. Analyze that, ”Whyte said, eliciting applause from some of the briefing attendees. “That’s a huge number of people dying compared to zero deaths from this vaccine.”

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 2,843 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total statewide cases to 506,882. 15 more deaths have also been reported, bringing the state’s coronavirus toll at 10,889. There are now 913 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, up from nearly 70 patients in the past 24 hours. In northwest Louisiana, hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past ten days.

The state’s overall immunization rate remains below 37 percent. Just over 30 percent of the population in Region 7 is vaccinated, according to the latest LDH data. That’s a few percentage points below the state average of 33 percent. Caddo has the highest vaccination rate at 32 percent. The Red River has the lowest at 23.75 percent.

“None of us want to have to go back to blockages, but the only way to change and prevent this from happening again is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. John Vanchiere, professor of pediatrics and director of the LSUHS COVID-19 Response Team. . “We still sit 30 percent of our population in northern Louisiana has been vaccinated. This means that two-thirds did not. This means that two out of three people you see at the grocery store are not vaccinated. This means we have a lot of risk in our community and it means more people will die in this pandemic. We could finish the second quarter of a long football game. We could be halfway through this pandemic. Hope we got past that, but I don’t think we are.

Vanchiere said they are seeing more and more people getting vaccinated at LSU health sites and at sites around the northwestern Louisiana area, at a rate of about two and a half times the rate. than a month ago.

The winners of the second draw of the Louisiana Shot at a Million vaccine incentive lottery were announced early Friday afternoon. The first winners were announced last Friday, as Governor John Bel Edwards sounded the alarm over rising COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations, noting that the state had lost “four months progress’ since the emergence of the Delta variant of the disease. .

The positivity rate for COVID-19 infection in the state has risen to 8.70%, the highest in six months.

Earlier this week, Chicago added Louisiana and two other states to its travel advisory for visitors to states that have once again passed the threshold of 15 cases per day, per 100,000 population.

Arkansas was added to the list last week.

The notice means that unvaccinated people traveling from Amber List states or territories are asked – not required – to test negative for COVID-19 no later than 72 hours before arriving in Chicago or to get tested. quarantined for 10 days upon arrival.