Governor: Third COVID surge is here

The third wave of coronavirus cases has arrived in local parishes and across the state.
But don’t expect new mitigation measures for now, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday press conference.
Until this month, Louisiana was spared by the rapidly growing COVID-19 test positivity and hospitalizations elsewhere in the United States, especially in the Midwest.
The number of daily COVID deaths has topped 1,500 nationally. The seven-day average of new infections across the country has topped 150,000 after dipping below 34,000 in September.
In Louisiana, the growth in new cases has been slower. In October, the number of cases grew by slightly less than 10% to 183,341 since the pandemic began. So far in November, the number of cases has risen slightly more than 10% to 202,243.
The real worry comes from the number of COVID-positive people admitted to hospitals for treatment. In all of October, the number of hospitalizations rose by 62 to 598. So far in November, 331 people have been hospitalized, running the total to 929.
Hospitalizations are considered significant not just because they reflect the most serious infections. The number of people in hospitals is independent of the number of tests being conducted, so a spike in that number can’t be attributed to an increase in testing.
Increases in hospitalizations also raise concerns about medical capacity and the ability to treat COVID patients as well as those with other medical conditions.
Locally:
—The number of new cases rose about 5% in October to 2,038. So far in November, cases are up nearly 7% to 2,177 as of Thursday.
—St. Martin’s cases rose about 7% in October to 2,259. They’re up more than 10% to 2,492 in November.
—In Assumption, cases rose 6% to 813 in October. In November, cases are up 10% to 897.
“Make no mistake,” Edwards said at his Thursday press conference. “Louisiana is in the third surge of this pandemic.”
And the early signs are that it will be worse than the spring and summer waves, the governor said.
Louisiana, currently in Phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions, won’t see new mitigation measures immediately, Edwards said. But that may change if the situation worsens.
There are signs that the problem with this wave results from people ignoring guidelines to have small gatherings with people from outside their households, the governor said, especially since Halloween.
The need for new mitigation will depend on how well Louisiana people follow rules about wearing masks, washing hands and staying home when they’re ill, Edwards said.
One mitigation measure being employed in Louisiana and across the country has been a return to virtual learning in both K-12 and post-secondary schools.
St. Mary Parish public schools haven’t followed suit.
“At this time, St. Mary remains able to continue with our schedule for in-person learning with the safety protocols we have in place,” Superintendent Teresa Bagwell said in an email. “The spread of the virus still appears to be from community contacts and not at school, which demonstrates that what we have done to keep kids socially distanced and their continued wearing of masks is helping keep our kids safe and learning in the classroom.”
The public school system hasn’t seen a big surge in cases, Bagwell said.
“We are seeing isolated cases at a few schools, which is an uptick for us,” she said. “However, the more problematic issue is the requirement that students who are considered a ‘contact to a positive’ must quarantine for 14 days.
“This group would include anyone who is within 6 feet of a positive case for a cumulative of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.”

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