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‘All the telltale signs are there’: Louisiana on cusp of another COVID-19 surge, doctors say

While Delta variant still is dominant strain in the state, physician says that soon could change
Dr. Anthony Fauci says “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many...
Dr. Anthony Fauci says “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:22 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:23 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Louisiana is at the beginning of another COVID-19 surge with the Omicron variant.

That’s what Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, said during a virtual COVID-19 media briefing Monday, Dec. 20.

“It’s coming. Our community has to prepare for it.”

Dr. John Vanchiere, an infectious disease specialist at LSU Health Shreveport, agrees. “We are seeing significant increases in our positivity rates in our community testing and, unfortunately, also in our nursing home testing.

“Those numbers aren’t real big yet, but it is definitely increasing,” Vanchiere continued. “We know the Omicron variant is here. And we know based on some of the data from other places, it spread like wildfire.”

LDH is urging residents to take precautions as the state sees a nearly 60% rise in cases since last week. With Louisiana seeing an increase in hospitalizations over the past four days, experts say now is the time to take Omicron seriously.

“Unfortunately, it’s starting to take a turn that we don’t like to see,” said Theresa Sokol, Louisiana’s State Epidemiologist. “75% of our parishes are at substantial or high levels of community transmission.”

The CDC announced Monday that the Omicron variant is now the most common coronavirus variant in the U.S., accounting for nearly three-quarters of the country’s COVID cases.

And while the Delta variant still is the dominant strain in Louisiana, Vanchiere said that soon could change. “We can expect within the next 10 to 14 days that Omicron will be the dominant strain.”

Ahead of the holidays and another possible surge, Vanchiere said the hospitals are preparing. “They are trying to optimize their staffing and, of course, supplies. The supply chain issues are at the forefront of discussions on a daily basis.

“All the medical facilities are concerned with taking care of staff because they have been stretched thin, especially when one or two people in the small clinic get sick with COVID or the flu or something else. That really takes its toll on the practice. The concern for our co-workers is front and center and will be very important in getting through this next surge.”

Officials are urging Louisianans to wear masks indoors, get the vaccine and booster, and to get tested frequently.

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