BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – In a virtual briefing on Thursday, Governor John Bel Edwards and health officials strongly urged people to wear masks indoors, get vaccinated and avoid large gatherings as Omicron surges.
Gov. Edwards asks people to take this surge seriously. At the time of this live stream, a statewide mask mandate has not been reinstated.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), 762 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 on Dec. 30, a 268% increase. LDH said the majority of hospitalized individuals are not fully vaccinated.
Edwards says hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Hospitals are asking people not to visit if they’re in need of a test.
Omicron is currently the dominant variant in the state, consisting of 90% of all COVID-19 cases, according to health officials.
Edwards is asking people to get their boosters and to avoid gathering on New Year’s Eve.
The governor says students will return to school amid this surge. He recommends schools require masking and suspend extracurricular activities.
State Epidemiologist Theresa Sokol says 95% of parishes are at the highest COVID-19 risk level.
Sokol discusses the low supply of a type of monoclonal antibody treatment that effectively works against Omicron. She says there is not enough to treat COVID-19 patients. Anti-viral COVID-19 pills are also in limited supply.
Sokol strongly encourages people to get vaccinated or boosters to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death due to Omicron. Masking indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible is also highly encouraged.
LDH recommends the following precautions as students return to school campuses:
- Mask universally indoors and outside when social distancing is not possible.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart during mealtimes when masking is not possible.
- Suspend extracurricular activities until statewide incidence is below 200 infections per 100,000 people.
- Avoid holding social gatherings (e.g., school dances or pep rallies) until statewide incidence is below 200 infections per 100,000 people.
- Get vaccinated and boosted when eligible.
- Children should be tested prior to return to school.
OLOL’s Dr. Catherine O’Neal says hospitals are seeing the fastest increase of COVID-19 cases in children. She is also urging people to get vaccinated and boosters, as well as children who are eligible.
“It is a community effort to end the pandemic,” said Dr. O’Neal.