September 27, 2021

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‘These are the darkest days of the pandemic,’ Louisiana hospital administrator says as state struggles with rising Covid-19 cases – CNN

5 min read
CNN —  

The ICU of Louisiana’s largest hospital is stretched to its limit with Covid-19 patients while others experiencing symptoms were waiting for a bed Monday, an official said.

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Catherine O’Neal said there were 23 names on the list of those waiting for space to open up in the ICU.

“You have people with chest pain sitting in an ER right now while their families sit in the waiting room, and they are wringing their hands, and they are calling everybody they know,” to get into an ICU, O’Neal said during a news briefing Monday.

A little more than two weeks ago, the Baton Rouge hospital had 36 Covid-19 patients, O’Neal said. That number is now 155.

“No one diagnosis should take up one quarter of your hospital,” O’Neal said. “We no longer think we’re giving adequate care to anybody, because these are the darkest days of the pandemic.”

O’Neal said the best way to slow the spread of Covid-19 is vaccination, but that’s not happening fast enough so people should be wearing masks as well.

Hindy Bogner Orenstein, a nurse from Maryland chats with Bren Ingle, a nurse from Chattanooga, Tennessee, as nearly three dozen healthcare workers from around the country arrive to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge on August 2, 2021.
Ted Jackson/AP
Hindy Bogner Orenstein, a nurse from Maryland chats with Bren Ingle, a nurse from Chattanooga, Tennessee, as nearly three dozen healthcare workers from around the country arrive to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge on August 2, 2021.

Louisiana is one of five states – along with Florida, Texas, California and Missouri – that make up nearly half of the new cases reported in the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As the more transmissible Delta variant spreads and cases are rising, hospitals are once again filling up with Covid-19 patients all over the country. In many, patients are younger and sicker than before, doctors say.

The seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases is up by more than 40% over the previous week, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

“While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, Covid-19 is clearly not done with us. And so our battle must last a little longer,” Walensky said.

With vaccination rates rising but still below where they need to be to slow or stop the spread of the virus, many local leaders are turning back toward masks to protect their populations.

The CDC updated its guidance last week, advising even fully vaccinated people to mask up in areas with substantial or high transmission.

That guidance covers more than 90% of the US population – about 300 million people, according to a CNN analysis of data published Monday by the CDC.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards temporarily reinstated the state’s mask mandate for all people age 5 and older, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, when they are indoors and in public. The mandate goes into effect Wednesday.

“Nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this is just another surge. We’ve already had three of these, this is the worst one we’ve had thus far,” Edwards said.

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said he anticipates Louisiana will hit its highest number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients at any point of the pandemic Tuesday.

“If we intend to prioritize the things that are important to us, like keeping our kids back in school and in-person, and maintaining our growing economy by keeping businesses open – masking is the best way to ensure that. So please take this masking order seriously, both in your personal lives, and your professional lives,” Kanter said.

Fauci: Breakthrough infections are not as alarming as they seem

Reports of infections among vaccinated people, known as breakthrough infections, have caused some concern among the public, but experts say they are not as alarming as they seem.

“The vaccines are doing exactly what we’re asking them to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease and certainly preventing your death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House Covid-19 response briefing Monday.

Vaccines provide an eight-fold reduction in people getting the disease and a 25-fold reduction in both Covid-19 related hospitalizations and deaths, Fauci said.

“An important point to bring up is that the greater percentage of people that are vaccinated, even with a high degree of protection, the absolute number of breakthrough infections might appear high. That’s not the critical number. The critical number is what is the proportion of the vaccinated, people who … are getting breakthrough infections, and that’s the critical one,” Fauci added.

Walensky provided some detail on what that proportion looks like: Of the tens of thousands of people likely exposed in an outbreak involving Provincetown, Massachusetts, she noted 346 confirmed breakthrough infections.

“During the summer, some towns in Barnstable County can have up to 240,000 visitors per month,” Walensky noted.

Some of those people will get infected even if they are vaccinated, Fauci said.

“You can expect breakthrough infections,” he said. “Most of these infections are going to be asymptomatic or mild,” he added.

“The bottom line of what we are saying is … Get vaccinated. I say that every single time,” Fauci said.

US reaches a vaccination goal a month late

By Monday, the US had vaccinated 70% of adults with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the White House’s Covid-19 data director, Cyrus Shahpar, said on Twitter.

This is the goal the Biden administration originally set for July 4, so it’s roughly a month behind that deadline.

Although it happned later than the administration wanted, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said reaching the milestone is still a significant step.

“It will help protect communities. It will help protect families and save more lives. But we’ve said from the beginning, even as we set this goal, our work would not be done even when we reached it. And so we’re forging ahead,” she continued.

The CDC reported Sunday that 816,203 additional doses were administered, the fifth straight day the agency recorded more than 700,000 shots in arms. The current seven-day average of doses administered is 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7.

CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Deidre McPhillips, Maggie Fox, Ralph Ellis and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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