Not since the COVID pandemic first began 18 months ago have conditions been as grave as they are right now in Louisiana. Today a sweeping masking mandate will begin statewide for “everybody,” vaccinated or not, after the state’s hospitals on Tuesday set an all-time record for inpatients with 2,112, breaking the previous mark of 2,069 set in January. On Monday there were 11,109 confirmed new cases with at least 2,000 believed to be children.
The vast amount of the new cases, driven by the highly contagious delta variant, are patients who are un-vaccinated but Louisiana health officials said that some vaccinated people are included in the early week statistics.
The same health official believe that a fully vaccinated person is 25 times less likely to be hospitalized or die in this so-called “fourth surge” of the highly contagious disease and eight times less likely to get infected.
With hospitals so overwhelmed there is a fear their efforts to control the disease in-house might be compromised. “I cannot in good conscience sit by while our hospitals lose the capacity to deliver life-saving care to COVID patients and non-COVID patients alike,” said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as he called for total masking when anyone is in an inside setting. This includes schools, churches, and all universities.
In Florida there was a record 11,515 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The delta-driven surge has hit a younger population than prior surges while filling hospital beds at a rapid clip, according to the Florida Hospital Association, which represents health centers in the state,
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida jumped from 2,000 to 10,000 in 30 days during this current surge, double the pace seen last summer, said Mary Mayhew, the association’s chief executive, per the Wall Street Journal. “This is putting 25-year-olds in the hospital, in intensive care and on ventilators,” Ms. Mayhew said.
What makes Louisiana and Florida so important is that they are 10-14 days ahead of Tennessee in the progression of the disease. While both states are reeling with the variant, Chattanooga and its region have yet to witness the true might of this delta variant.
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THIS FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: “Average daily new U.S. cases over the past month surged past 85,000 on Monday, surpassing last summer’s peak and now the highest since Feb. 18. Hospitals are treating around 50,000 COVID-19 patients, a census that more than doubled in two weeks but remains below last summer’s levels. Deaths have risen slightly to around 370 a day but remain far below the 1,000 daily averages in early August of last year.
Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, said new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that the delta variant appears to cause more severe illness and is transmissible by fully vaccinated people echoes how her lab has been detecting high viral loads among the vaccinated in South Florida as it battles a surge.
“Unfortunately, it’s not acting in such a way it’s preventing that vaccinated person from being a transmitter,” Marty said. “We are really thinking this is going to go on through August unless there’s a massive change in behavior and vaccination rates.”
Available research has repeatedly confirmed that vaccinations still offer robust protection against serious illness and death caused by coronavirus. The latest CDC data raises concerns about the role of vaccinated people who develop uncommon infections in spreading the virus, which is what inspired recommendations for wider masking as a precautionary measure.
“Delta spreads like wildfire. But vaccines contain that fire and will eventually help to put it out,” said Aditi Nerurkar, a physician at Harvard Medical School. “For now, our shared goal must be to vaccinate everyone and avoid breeding vaccine discontentment. Vaccines continue to be the surest bet to keep people out of hospitals, ICUs and the obituary pages.”
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SURGE WILL GET WORSE BEFORE BETTER
THIS FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: “The newly resurgent coronavirus could spark 140,000 to 300,000 cases a day in the United States come August, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant and the widespread resumption of normal activities, disease trackers predict. The nation is already reporting more than 70,000 cases a day, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average - an increase of nearly 60,000 in the daily average in less than six weeks. Cases, measured as that rolling average, have risen to levels last seen in February.
Justin Lessler, a University of North Carolina epidemiology professor who assisted in coordinating pandemic forecasts through the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, said he was “quite concerned. … It worries me that we may have been too optimistic” in projecting lower caseloads into the fall.
The seven-day average of cases nationwide has risen by about 60 percent in the past week alone. Daily hospitalizations rose by roughly 40 percent and deaths rose almost 30 percent, now averaging more than 300 each day. “It is getting worse, and at least as of right now, it is not really slowing down in the U.S.,” said David W. Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
If there is a silver lining, it is this: Experts do not expect hospitalizations and deaths to rise to the levels experienced in the winter. “The people who are getting sick are younger and healthier,” Dowdy said. The surge has multiple propellants. The delta variant, which transmits more easily between people, is one.
Delta, originally detected in India and first diagnosed in the United States in March, rapidly replaced other variants to become dominant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates delta is responsible for more than 8 in 10 new cases.
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HIGHEST HOSPITALIZATIONS SINCE FEBRUARY:
THIS FROM ARIELLE MITROPOULOUS AT ABC NEWS -- According to federal data, nearly 56,000 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S., marking the highest number of patients receiving care since February. Ninety-one percent of Americans are now living in high (a seven-day new case rate = 100) or substantial (a seven-day new case rate between 50-99.99) community transmission in the last week.
Seven states - Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina -- have high or substantial community transmission in every county. Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and Alabama currently have the nation's highest case rates, followed by Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma.
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ARKANSAS WITNESSES HIGHEST PEAK
THIS FROM MSN NEWS -- Another 81 COVID-19 patients were admitted to Arkansas hospitals on Monday, the highest increase in hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic, Governor Asa Hutchinson tweeted. The state now has 1,220 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 250 on ventilators.
"We continue to see nearly all hospitalizations among the unvaccinated," the governor wrote. "Hospitals are full & the only remedy is for more Arkansans to be vaccinated."
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NEARLY 72,000 CHILDREN TEST POSITIVE
THIS FROM ABC NEWS’ ARIELLE MITROULOS -- Nearly 72,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 last week, a massive jump from the approximately 39,000 cases among kids one week earlier, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Children represented 19 percent of all COVID-19 cases for the week ending July 29.
Severe illness due to COVID-19 remains "uncommon" among children, the two organizations wrote in the report. According to the nearly two dozen states that reported pediatric hospitalizations, 0.1 percent to 1.9 percent of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.
However, the two organizations warned that there is an urgent need to collect more data on long-term impacts of the pandemic on children, "including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects."