Edwards makes urgent call for vaccinations as Delta variant spikes

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE -- As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge among unvaccinated Louisianans, Gov. John Bel Edwards called upon all Louisianans to take action to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state by getting their vaccine if they have not done so or by helping their family, friends and neighbors get the shot.

Between February and July, unvaccinated people in Louisiana were 20 times more likely to become ill with COVID-19.

Gov. John Bel Edwards

“If you have not taken one of the COVID-19 vaccines and you’re 12 or older, it’s time to run, not walk, to one of the more than 1,400 locations where they are readily available all across the state of Louisiana,” Edwards said. “The Delta variant of COVID is now the dominant strain in Louisiana, and without the protection that the safe and effective vaccines offer, you are far more likely to become ill with COVID in Louisiana. Our hospitals are again stretched thin with limited staff capacity, and the vast majority of COVID patients are not yet fully vaccinated against the illness.

“To those who are vaccinated, thank you for taking this important step to protect yourselves and those around you. Today, I’m drafting you all into advocacy for vaccination against COVID-19, because research shows that many people who had questions changed their minds after hearing from doctors, family members and friends,” Edwards said. “Please, reach out to the people in your life who you know have not been vaccinated and have private conversations with them about their questions, fears and the barriers they may face in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Help them get good information about how safe it is, and explain that you care about them and want them to be protected. Consider assisting them in getting an appointment or even offering transportation to get the shot. We’re all in this together and we can turn things around – but we have a limited time to do so.”

“COVID-19 cases are surging among the unvaccinated in Louisiana. It’s not one outbreak, it’s not one region. This is a statewide problem,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer. “And because our statewide vaccination rate is too low everyone is at elevated risk and should take precautions immediately for the safety of themselves and their families.”

LDH reaffirms the following guidance for individuals in Louisiana:

  • If you are not yet fully vaccinated you should mask and distance in public settings and particularly indoors, for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
  • If you are fully vaccinated you have very good, but not absolute protection. Your risk, while relatively small, will increase as the amount of COVID-19 circulating in your community increases. Masking and distancing particularly when indoors will increase your safety should you desire extra protection.
  • If you are at increased risk for complications of COVID-19 by virtue of advanced age or underlying medical condition or have a member of your household family unit who is, LDH strongly recommends you consider masking and distancing when indoors and/or in close proximity to others for added protection.

FACTS ABOUT THE DELTA VARIANT

Having had COVID-19 before does not offer protection against the Delta variant, which is much more contagious and is now the dominant strain in Louisiana and the country. Getting any one of the three vaccines, however, has proven to be effective against COVID-19 in general and the Delta variant specifically.

As a result of the current pace of vaccinations and the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, Louisiana’s COVID-19 trends continue to worsen:

  • The number of new cases diagnosed each day in Louisiana has been increasing since June 16 and is increasing in all nine regions of the state. The statewide average daily number of cases per 100,000 residents has increased 177 percent over the past 14 days.
  • The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Louisiana has been increasing for the past 14 days, with 245 additional hospitalized patients added during that time, as of today's reporting. That is double the number from two weeks ago.
  • Statewide percent positivity of new COVID-19 tests conducted is now 6.3% and has been increasing for the past five weeks.
  • During the past week, 35 new outbreaks and 200 new outbreak-associated cases have been identified. This represents a 169% increase in the number of reported outbreaks and a 96 percent increase in the number of outbreak-associated cases compared to the previous week. The settings with the greatest outbreak increases included camps, child day cares, religious services and restaurants. In addition to the widespread circulation of the more transmissible Delta variant, insufficient masking and distancing, especially among unvaccinated individuals, are also contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in these settings.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine remains the single best way of protecting yourself, your family and your community against COVID-19. While the protection provided by each of the three currently available COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) is very good against COVID-19 and the variants currently spreading in Louisiana, the protection is not absolute. LDH is aware of a small number of “breakthrough cases,” or individuals who contracted COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

So far, more than 184 million Americans – including more than 1.8 million Louisianans – have taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, which are safe and effective against COVID.

The CDC says 99.2% of all COVID-19 deaths are in unvaccinated people, meaning the available vaccines are very effective against the current COVID-19 variants, including Delta, which is the dominant strain in Louisiana.

HOW TO GET A COVID VACCINE IN LOUISIANA

Everyone aged 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. The FDA has only authorized one of the three COVID-19 vaccines – from Pfizer – for children ages 12 to 17. Parents should confirm with the vaccine provider that their child is under 18 to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available before making an appointment.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are widely available at 1,437 locations in all of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including at pharmacies, hospitals, health care clinics and doctor’s offices.
  • For a list of locations, visit LDH’s vaccine directory or visit vaccines.gov, which is maintained by the federal government.
  • To get a list of vaccine locations near you text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish.
  • If you have questions, would like to speak with a medical professional, or need help scheduling an appointment, call Louisiana’s vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774.