NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana reported another 55 deaths from COVID Wednesday, a number more in line with the state's slow rise in reported deaths than the previous day's 93 deaths.
The figures released by the Louisiana Department of Health are not optimistic though and mark yet another day when more than 50 people have died in the state this month. It is the third time since Aug. 1 that Louisiana has hit that benchmark.
One day before, on Tuesday, state health officials recorded 93 new deaths attributed to the coronavirus, the highest number seen since the peak of the pandemic's third wave in January.
The LDH reported 5,408 new cases and an increase of 36 hospitalizations as well. Louisiana is fast approaching 3,000 hospitalizations, with 2,895 hospital beds currently filled — the highest the state has seen since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations have already topped the health system's ability to deal with cases.
In Covington, Lakeview Regional Medical Center's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacques Guillot, said because COVID patients are filling up the emergency department, it’s getting harder to accept people in need of other emergent care, especially when being transferred from smaller hospitals that don’t have specialized doctors or equipment.
“We’ve had people with heart attacks that needed treatment, people with strokes at other places that needed treatment and we just don’t have the room to take them in,” Guillot said.
Dr. Jeffery Elder, Medical Director for Emergency Management at LCMC Health in New Orleans, says that creates an internal balancing act within hospitals across the state.
“That’s the challenge we’re dealing with now,” Dr. Elder said. “It’s been harder for us to transfer patients amongst hospitals because we just don’t always have the beds available even at the larger hospitals to take some of these patients.”
The unprecedented pace of hospitalizations in this fourth surge has pushed the healthcare system to its breaking point. The health department said there were 206 ICU beds available across the state. Four of Louisiana’s health regions - which encompass 27 parishes - were down to just single-digit ICU beds available.
"I've never seen anything like this. We are hit with a tsunami every single day," Dr. Michael Hill with the St. Tammany Health System said.
The highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates are blamed for the latest spread of the virus. The LDH says that close to 45 percent of Louisiana’s population have had one vaccine dose; 38 percent are fully vaccinated.
Soaring case numbers have prompted the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz Fest and the Gretna Heritage Festival, both of which were set for the fall.