The CDC added 16 more places to its “very high” Covid-19 travel risk list

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center 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.

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.

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