NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – COVID-19 cases are ticking up again in Louisiana.
On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 730 new cases. The day before the number was 884.
Dr. Fred Lopez is an infectious diseases expert at LSU Health New Orleans.
“We’re seeing an increase and we’ve seen it before,” said Lopez.
Mitigation measures have largely been relaxed but the virus has not disappeared.
“The number of cases is increasing locally, and the case positivity rates, percentage positivity rates are increasing in Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes are according to the CDC at a high level of community transmission,” said Lopez.
According to LDH, of the newly reported COVID cases 45% are from Region 1 which is the Greater New Orleans area.
“The cases are going up just at a time when these Omicron sub-variants are presenting themselves,” said Lopez.
The sub-variants of Omicron seem to spread easier.
“If you remember back in December and January we were talking about the Omicron variant and just how transmissible it was and now we have a B.A. 2 variant that still is the dominant strain but is slowly being replaced by the B.A.2.12.1 Omicron sub-variant which interestingly B.A. 2 is more transmissible than Omicron and now B.A. 2.12.1 is even more transmissible than B.A 2, so each variant seems to be increasing in its transmissibility,” said Lopez.
At Majoria’s Drugs in Metairie, there are shelves of at-home COVID tests.
“We’ve probably seen two, maybe three prescriptions in the last week or so that we could recognize as a treatment for COVID,” said pharmacist Al Spitale.
Given what happened in the Northeast it was predicted that cases would begin rising in the South.
“We’re as prepared as we can be because you just don’t know what to anticipate. We’ve got a good supply of the tests and a good supply of the medication on hand for prescriptions that would be written,” said Spitale.
For now, the rise in cases in Louisiana is not translating into a surge in hospitalizations. LDH reported 65 COVID hospitalizations on Friday.
And while more than 50% of Louisiana’s population age 5 and above is vaccinated, there is still room for more people to get vaccinated and then later booster shots.
“Vaccines are still effective, they’re effective at what we want them to do primarily which is decrease severe illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths and they continue to be effective in doing that but you need to be appropriately vaccinated and then boosted as per the recommendations because we do know that antibody levels and immunity will wane,” said Lopez.
The number of cases could be higher than what government entities report due to at-home testing.
“Absolutely, many people who are being diagnosed are doing at-home testing which typically does not get represented in the official case count, so we’re probably seeing the tip of the iceberg with respect to the number of cases that are actually occurring relative to those that are being reported,” said Lopez.
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