LDH: COVID-19 ‘surging’ in non-vaccinated people as Delta variant takes over

Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

New cases of COVID-19 are surging across Louisiana among people who haven’t been vaccinated as the more contagious Delta variant grows, the Department of Health warned Tuesday.

“Since early May, 19, 200 new COVID-19 cases have been reported among Louisiana residents, with 94% of these cases occurring among individuals who were not fully vaccinated,” the department warned. 

“On July 13, LDH announced 9 additional COVID-19 deaths; all individuals were unvaccinated.”

Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at just under 36% of residents fully vaccinated as of Monday. 

More:See the Daily Advertiser's COVID-19 data dashboard

Only Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming have fully vaccinated smaller shares of their populations. For comparison, the national vaccination rate is over 49%.

After an initial burst of vaccinations as the COVID-19 vaccines became widely available to the public this spring, vaccinations in Louisiana have slowed to a crawl in recent months. 

Throughout most of May and June, new COVID-19 vaccinations in Louisiana slowed dramatically from earlier this spring, falling from more than 100,000 new shots a week in March and April to below 40,000 a week.

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The decline in new vaccinations has health officials concerned that the state’s non-vaccinated population will become an easy target for the more contagious Delta variant that accounts for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in Louisiana and surrounding states. 

“COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people in Louisiana are surging,” State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter said in a release Tuesday.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations, percent positivity and COVID-19 outbreaks are all on the rise. All people in Louisiana, especially those who are not yet vaccinated, should know they are now at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to the more transmissible Delta variant, and they should consider their personal risk and their family’s risk.”

Dr. Joe Kanter, state health officer, received his COVID-19 vaccine in January.

As the Delta variant has become a larger threat to public health, new cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana have started to increase at rates not seen since the state’s major third-wave surge this past winter. 

Last week, Louisiana reported an average of 502 new cases a day, the state’s fastest rate of case growth since February, before vaccines were widely available to the public. 

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Louisiana’s new COVID-19 cases have been growing for the past 28 days, according to LDH, and are increasing in all of the state’s nine healthcare regions. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also rising, increasing by roughly 200 patients in the past two weeks, LDH reported. 

Specific outbreaks of the virus are on the rise as well, according to LDH, with the number of identified outbreaks more than doubling in the past week and the number of outbreak-associated cases growing by 96%, primarily at daycares, restaurants, summer camps and religious services. 

“The settings with the greatest outbreak increases included camps, child day cares, religious services and restaurants,” LDH reported. 

MORE:Lafayette General disputes claim that nurse died of COVID-19

“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.”

LDH and CDC recommend the COVID-19 vaccines for residents ages 12 and up. Hundreds of healthcare providers across the state offer the shots for free, and a list of vaccination locations is available online at ldh.la.gov/covidvaccine-locations.

While the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases have come among the state’s large non-vaccinated population, LDH has tracked roughly 1,763 “breakthrough” cases, in which fully vaccinated people contract the virus. That is just over one breakthrough case per 1,000 fully vaccinated people in the state. 

Follow Andrew Capps on Twitter or send an email to acapps@theadvertiser.com.