COVID surge has filled all ICU beds in Terrebonne, Lafourche and surrounding parishes, official says

Keith Magill
The Courier

An influx of COVID-19 patients has left all of the available ICU beds full in Terrebonne, Lafourche and surrounding parishes, a state health official said today.

Some hospitals have had to transfer patients to medical centers outside the area where there are open beds, said Dr. Chip Riggins, medical director for the Louisiana Health Department's Region 3. 

Riggins said all 79 ICU beds were occupied Wednesday throughout the region, which includes Assumption, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Mary, Terrebonne parishes.

Riggins said he did not have information immediately available on which specific hospitals within the region have had to transfer patients but did know that some had done so. He was not sure whether those transfers were ICU patients or others needing hospital care, adding that medical-surgical beds were also near or at capacity at facilities throughout the area. 

"They've had to go outside the region and go to other regions of the state," he said in a telephone interview. "Some have gone had to go past Baton Rouge and I've heard anecdotally of patients having to go to Rapides."

Riggins said the overload is the result both of surging COVID-19 cases – most of them the more-contagious delta variant  as well as a staffing shortage, particularly among nurses, at some hospitals.

COVID-related hospitalizations have risen steadily all week in Terrebonne, Lafourche and surrounding parishes, state Health Department data show.

Across the region, 132 COVID patients were hospitalized Wednesday, tying a pandemic high set in April 2020. The figure was up 35% from the 98 people hospitalized Monday.

In Terrebonne, 41 people were hospitalized with COVID-related illnesses on Wednesday, up 41% from two days earlier. 

Fifty-six people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Lafourche on Wednesday, up 44% since Monday.

Though the COVID surge is the main cause for the overload, some of the area's ICU beds are occupied by patients with other ailments, Riggins said.

"Because our usual diseases are continuing to happen that take a portion of those," he said. "So, yeah, most if not all of our hospitals in the region, and I'm sure that includes both in Terrebonne, are also kind of on divert, so they're having to work on a case-by-case basis any transfers that they have because most hospitals, even outside the region, are experiencing a similar stress."

COVID-19 cases have surged for the past few weeks locally and across much of the U.S. 

Louisiana is one of three states where the transmission rate is so high that every parish or county is at high risk, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.  

In Terrebonne, new cases per 100,000 persons totaled 391 for the week ending Saturday -- nearly four times the level the CDC uses to rank the spread within a community as high. The figure rose 85% from the previous seven-day period.

Lafourche recorded 646 new cases per 100,000 persons for the week ending Saturday, up 104% compared to the previous seven days. 

Positivity rates in both parishes also are much higher than the 10% the CDC considers high. The rate was in 17% Terrebonne and 16% in Lafourche for the week ending Saturday, CDC data shows.

Both parishes' vaccination rates are below Louisiana's average of 36.5% and the U.S. average of 49%. Louisiana has third-lowest rate among states. As of Tuesday, 29% of Terrebonne residents and 33% in Lafourche were fully vaccinated, state Health Department figures show.

This past week, five Louisiana parishes reported their largest-ever increases in new COVID-19 cases. Ascension, Lafourche, Livingston, St. Mary and Tangipahoa account were five of nine counties and parishes across the nation to set new records for growth in COVID-19 cases last week.