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'I don’t think people understand the gravity of the issue' | Delta variant surge continues

Doctors are warning Louisianans about the Delta variant responsible for the fourth COVID surge. Masking and vaccinations are offered as options to slow the spread.

NEW ORLEANS — It took a few weeks for the Delta variant to fill Louisiana hospitals with COVID patients at a record-breaking level. State health leaders say this current surge in COVID cases was avoidable. 

Dr. Shantel Hebert-Magee says don’t expect the fourth surge to pass in the same amount of time that it took develop.

“We’re going to be in this surge for a while, and I don’t think people understand the gravity of the issue,” said Dr. Hebert-Magee, medical director for Region 1 of the Louisiana Department of Health.

Dr. Hebert-Magee says unlike the previous waves of COVID, more children are being affected this time around.

“They are our most valuable resource and with them going back to school or with many already in school, we cannot jeopardize being in this any longer,”  Dr. Hebert-Magee said.

Starting Wednesday, a state-wide mask mandate will be put in place. It’s expected to last until at least Sept. 1. Dr. Hebert-Magee says with the Delta variant, we can’t be selective about pandemic precautions. She’s urging even the vaccinated to mask up and be mindful of social distancing.

“I’ve lost my sense of taste, and I’ve lost my sense of smell, and I feel fatigued,” John Fitzmorris told us over a Zoom interview on Tuesday.

Fitzmorris is considered a breakthrough case. He tested positive for COVID several days earlier despite have been fully vaccinated. Fitzmorris said he’s grateful to recover outside of a hospital.

“I feel very blessed that I was vaccinated, and I’m sure that’s mitigated the symptoms an unvaccinated person would have,” Fitzmorris said.

“It is much better than its predecessors at spreading,” Dr. Lucio Miele said as he described the Delta variant.

Dr. Miele is the head of the Genetics Department at the LSU School of Medicine. He’s been studying the multiple variants of COVID. 

Dr. Miele says Louisiana’s poor vaccination rate makes the state more susceptible to future forms of the virus.

“This doesn’t have to be the definitive variant," he said. "There may very well be others coming after it that may be even worse, and there are some inklings of that from other parts of the world.”

Given the evolving nature of the Coronavirus, Dr. Miele says the near future will likely entail many of us getting booster shots to help sustain protection gained from vaccines.

“At least two countries have made the decision to go ahead with booster shoots,” Dr. Miele said.

How another country’s handling of COVID may seem far and distant, but then again, a variant that once started in India is now changing life in Louisiana.