NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana marked the highest single-day jump in coronavirus-related deaths since early April on Tuesday, giving more credence to the warnings by state health officials that the state is approaching a fourth wave of the virus.
The state reported 20 new COVID-related deaths.
Tuesday's update also saw the total number of cases recorded in the state topping 500,000. Of those half a million COVID-19 patients, nearly 11,000 have died from the disease or from conditions made worse by it.
Hospitalizations have also sharply increased in the state, thanks in part to the highly contagious delta variant, which is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Louisiana and much of the U.S.
Hospitals statewide report 779 people hospitalized as of July 20, nearly three times the number reported on July 1.
U.S. cases of COVID-19 last week increased by 17,000 nationwide over a 14-day period for the first time since late fall, and an increase in death historically follows a spike in illness. Much of the worsening problem is being driven by the delta variant first identified in India, which has since hit the United Kingdom and other countries.
About 186 million Americans have received at least one shot, but another 90 million eligible Americans haven't. Officials are trying to overcome a stubborn refusal among some — particularly conservative, rural white people — to get vaccinated, but it's unclear how to do that. So, for the meantime at least, some places have reverted to health precautions that had been cast aside.
In Louisiana, fewer than 2 million of the state's eligible residents have received at least one dose of a commercially available vaccine, despite multiple vaccines being available for free.
The state has among the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
In New Orleans, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, health leaders fear that the delta variant is encroaching from other parishes with lagging vaccination rates. New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno pleaded again with residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine to prevent further spread of the variant.
Avegno added that mask mandates and other efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus at large events are likely to continue into the fall as the dangerous variant spreads.
The U.S. has seen a string of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to summer camps in recent weeks - including in the New Orleans area - in what some fear could be a preview of the upcoming school year.