The United States is again in the midst of a record third of the year coronavirus wave, with Midwestern outbreaks pushing the country’s daily incidence of over 120,000.
But Louisiana seems to be going against the trend. At least for now.
There is no firm theory as to why Louisiana, the only state to have a spike in cases at the same time as spring and summer national numbers, is only slowly growing this time. Compliance with the guidelines for wearing a mask and staying away from society, as well as the still warm fall temperatures in the state, could be factors. Additionally, some worry that the small increase in new cases and hospital admissions could signal the condition is moving towards another outbreak, one that is concealed by reduced testing.
Regardless of whether Louisiana’s relatively stable location is real or virtual, experts advise residents to continue taking precautions.
“You have to remember that hundreds of cases happen every day in Louisiana. Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Medical Security Center in Baltimore, says there is always a risk of becoming complacent and the percentage of positivity starts to rise and you get contagious again. transmission increases there.
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On Friday, the United States recorded nearly 133,000 new coronavirus infections, the third day in a row they set a new record since the pandemic started in the spring. The country also marked the fourth consecutive day that 1,000 people died, the most fatal since late August. According to The New York Times, the latest outbreak pushed 27 states above a seven-day record. according to The New York Times.
But things are still relatively stable in Louisiana. While 4,438 new cases added to the state total over the past week were the largest increase since mid-September, it is only up 12% from the statewide daily average for the past two months.
“In comparison, we look pretty, but it still worries me because I hear people across the state saying that masking is really bumps and misses and gatherings are going on and Outpatient schools relate to schools, ”said Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane University. “All of that is driving the case clusters, and people are proving that they no longer seem eager to be tested.”
While the overall situation does not look worse than in recent months, there are a number of areas for concern. The area around Shreveport, which has never seen a drop in cases as much as other parts of the state, has seen cases increase rapidly – with its seven-day total increased to more than 1,000 cases, an increase of more than 40% compared to the previous week.
The Lafayette area grew even stronger, with the number of cases nearly doubling from the previous week. However, a total of 640 cases over 7 days is still relatively low.
In New Orleans, Tulane University President Michael Fitts emailed students and staff on Friday saying the school is adding new restrictions and test requirements after seeing an increase in cases that The officials attributed the Zeta storm and the Halloween festival. The school reported 214 cases positive last week, a number that rose sharply over the weeks, of which the number of new cases never increased by double digits.
Louisiana Health Department spokesperson Kevin Litten said in an emailed statement that officials continue to monitor the situation closely and are particularly troubled by the increased percentage of positivity in northeast Louisiana. and the outbreak at 42 religious events resulted in 225 new cases. The department is also concerned that people may lose their guard and take precautions in small settings with friends or family.
“Human behavior is subconsciously thinking that your friends and loved ones are not exposed to the virus,” Litten said. “But this of course is not true. It is important that we keep this in mind as we are entering the holiday season. That doesn’t mean we cannot spend time with loved ones of the same. it just means we need to be a little creative. we can all stay safe. “
A surge in Louisiana has been expected since mid-September, when Governor John Bel Edwards announced that he was easing some restrictions and moving to Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. . In New Orleans, which maintained stricter state rules during the pandemic, Mayor LaToya Cantrell began easing his restrictions about two weeks later.
In earlier stages of the pandemic, both Louisiana and around the world, the reduction of restrictions has been accompanied by an increase in the spread of the virus. And in Louisiana, those looser restrictions appear with the start of face-to-face learning at schools and colleges, another change that is expected to lead to increased contagion.
“There is no explanation,” said Jeff Asher of AH Datalytics, who is monitoring the pandemic in the state. “I’ve been sitting here and looking forward to it.”
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One explanation given by Adalja is that residents of Louisiana have memorized the experiences of the first two waves of the pandemic. “That makes the population a little more satisfied with the risks, and a lot of what happens when an outbreak in a certain region is related to human behavior,” he said.
Climate can also play a role. The current increase is largely happening in states where the cold has halted, reducing the chances of outdoor activities deemed less likely to spread the virus than congregations in home.
That raises concerns about what will happen as the weather changes in Louisiana, as well as the upcoming holidays that could see families gathering to celebrate, Hassig said.
“Those are not just strangers. That is the [who] close to us and .. are taking risks and potential risks for us, ”she said. “Honestly, that’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about: If we get a lot of asymptomatic spreads among people under 40, when they congregate with family – including generations. getting older – that’s when I’m concerned we’ll ‘see more of an impact. “
Then it is possible that the current coronavirus count is an illusion. Testing has been interrupted several times in recent months as hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta swept through the state. Each hurricane is accompanied by a decrease in the number of trials and newly reported cases.
Hassig says that stems from a reluctance in some parts of the state to be examined in the first place.
Overall, that could mean the virus is still contagious but not showing up in the official statistics, she said.
Another, less consensual, explanation is the effect of previous waves on the susceptibility of Louisiana’s population. With nearly 187,700 confirmed cases, Louisiana has the highest per capita rate in the country and the number of undiagnosed infections can be many times higher.
Asher says that won’t reach the threshold needed for any kind of herd immunity, but it could work to slow the spread of the disease among people, such as the regular essential workers. constantly interact with other people.
“It can be more difficult to spread here than elsewhere,” he said.
However, Hassig said she doubted that there were enough people infected to affect the virus’s ability to spread.
“I don’t think that’s enough to dramatically change the move,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on November 8, 2020, to include a statement from the Louisiana Department of Health.