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Delta variant, Louisiana's low vaccination rate cause largest COVID spike in 5 months, doctors say

Infectious disease physician Dr. Brobson Lutz says the rise in cases and deaths is driving some patients to get the shot.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana is seeing its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases since February. It’s a striking reminder that COVID is still out there.

The state reported 1,936 new cases since Tuesday and hospitalizations are climbing.

Aside from that big jump in new cases, we are also learning that some doctors around the state fear a return to the pre-vaccine mandates and restrictions.

That's based on rising infections and deaths, and a low vaccine rate. 

The rise in COVID hospitalizations statewide is being felt by local doctors as well. Weeks ago, the six LCMC hospitals had only a handful of COVID patients, less than 10. Today it's risen to 35.

“And this is directly related to two things. Number one, the variant and number two, people not being vaccinated, because we just aren't seeing vaccinated people in any large numbers admitted to the hospitals with COVID. It's really unvaccinated people,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Elder, the Medical Director of Emergency Management at LCMC Health, who is also an emergency medicine physician at LSU Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Elder said it's mostly people older than 50 with other health conditions, but there are young adults too. The six LCMC hospitals are now preparing for an even higher upswing.

“We are absolutely. We are having those discussions, equipment, personnel, the whole thing, and preparing for what that would look like. And that's being done statewide,” Dr. Elder said.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Brobson Lutz says the rise in cases and deaths is driving some patients to get the shot.

“When the people who are somewhat hesitant see that these numbers were occurring in people who didn't get the vaccine, that's a mighty powerful incentive to get on board,” said Dr. Brobson Lutz, infectious diseases physician in New Orleans.

When asked if he ever hears from families or patients who wish they had gotten the vaccine, Dr. Elder replied, “So I heard it just this weekend. People say, ‘You know, I should have been vaccinated. I should have done it earlier.’”

“Sure the vaccine's not 100% effective, but it reduces your chance of having to go to an emergency room, get put on a respirator, and dying. That's pretty good,” Dr. Lutz said.

Some hesitant patients are concerned that the vaccines are only FDA approved under emergency use authorization.

“I can tell you now with confidence that we've vaccinated 180 million people plus in the United States, and the overall data says that these vaccines are extremely safe,” Dr. Elder said.

And vaccines can protect against you spreading the virus and your body being the host for the creation of even more new variants.

Since December, more than 200,000 people have died from COVID. Only a small fraction, 988 of those people were vaccinated.