NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana set a new record Tuesday with the most reported COVID-related hospitalizations of any time during the pandemic.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 2,112 patients hospitalized, with 222 on ventilators. That indicates a jump of 128 hospitalized patients from the previous day's total.
The massive number of hospitalizations is one of the starkest reminders that Louisiana is in the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Alongside the grim hospitalization numbers are 4,725 new cases and 59 new COVID-related deaths in the state. That marks the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since January 18, when 65 people died from COVID.
Unvaccinated residents accounted for 90% of cases from July 15 to July 21 (the latest dates given by LDH) and 85% of deaths across the same timeframe.
They account for 89% of current hospitalizations.
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday announced a statewide mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, because of the rising number of cases attributed to the more contagious delta variant.
That mask mandate is expected to take effect Wednesday.
State health experts said Monday at the governor's press conference that vaccinated people who contract the delta variant of COVID — known as breakout cases — may be able to spread the infection just as easily as an unvaccinated person.
Previous research indicated that vaccinated people were largely protected from spreading the original strain of the virus. Because the delta variant is the dominant strain in Louisiana and the U.S., it appears to by bypassing some of that protection.
Edwards said the “unchecked” fourth wave of the virus “threatens the capacity of our hospitals and medical facilities to deliver car to their patients,”
“That is simply unacceptable, and after reviewing new data from the CDC, speaking with public health advisors, and hearing from hospital leadership and the business community, I am reinstating Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate indoors, including in schools to protect our children who are too young to be vaccinated and our teachers and staff.”
Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with just over 41.5% of the state having received at least one COVID vaccine dose. More than 11,000 people have died in the state from COVID since the pandemic began.
That lack of vaccination is causing spikes around the state. Tangipahoa Parish's recent numbers put it at the top of the nation in terms of new COVID cases. Over the weekend, 416 new cases and seven deaths were reported in Tangipahoa Parish.
The CEO of the main hospital in the parish is extremely concerned and expressed her frustration during Governor John Bel Edwards' news conference Monday afternoon.
"This morning we had a 24 year old die of COVID, unvaccinated. It was preventable and in the last two weeks, we've had 14 deaths; most between 24-and-55 years old," Michele Sutton, CEO of North Oaks Health System said.
Sutton said North Oaks is facing an unprecedented crisis. On Monday, 50 percent of the hospital's patients were COVID positive. The hospital has discontinued elective surgeries tor turn recovery rooms into a third ICU.
"I had 13 patients in the ER waiting for a bed, 10 of which were COVID positive," she said.
Other regions such as Baton Rouge, the Northshore and south-central portions of the state are also reporting record-setting numbers of COVID-19 positive patients.