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Louisiana sees smallest growth in coronavirus cases yet

Louisiana's newest coronavirus data continued a positive trend: slowing hospitalizations, falling ventilator use and a declining number of deaths reported daily.
Credit: AP
Cindy Morris, left, and Swarnamala Ratnayaka don personal protective equipment before preparing RNA for testing for the new coronavirus at the molecular pathology lab at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The test is identical to the PCR test being used by the Centers for Disease Control to ease the testing crisis and stop the spread of COVID-19, which has hit the New Orleans area especially hard. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — Easter Sunday had the lowest percent increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in Louisiana, continuing the now six-day streak of growth in the single digits and pointing towards the possibility that the state may have reached its peak – or at least a plateau.

Louisiana's newest coronavirus data continued a positive trend: slowing hospitalizations, falling ventilator use and a declining number of deaths reported daily. 

Sunday's numbers from the Louisiana Department of health had 581 new cases and 34 new deaths.

Those numbers equal just under 3% and just over 4% growth respectively.  

The rate of growth for deaths was the second-lowest Louisiana has seen so far, behind only a single day when no new deaths were reported. On that day, March 22, only 837 cases had been reported and there were 20 deaths attributed to COVID-19. 

The number of patients on ventilators also decreased for the sixth time in the past eight days. The number dropped from 470 patients to 458 since Saturday. 

State and private labs have conducted more than 104,000 coronavirus tests, with about 20% of those tests returning positive results. Sunday saw one of the largest jumps in testing yet, with 7,130 tests added to the totals. 

The state has 20,595 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far. 

Orleans Parish, where the outbreak was first confirmed in Louisiana, only reported three additional deaths. Jefferson Parish also saw three new deaths.

Those two parishes have about half of the confirmed cases in the state and just under half the deaths were reported there.  

But the good news comes with some uncertainty about where on the curve we are in regards to slowing the spread of the virus. 

The number of deaths reported may be lagging behind reality in hospitals across the state because of a delay in test results for the dead and the time needed to compile that information. 

Only about 10% of the tests reported between Saturday and Sunday come from Orleans and Jefferson parishes, meaning that many of the tests are coming in from less populated parishes. 

That's a good thing for Louisiana's rate of testing, which Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he is not satisfied with. Louisiana's rate of testing is one of the highest in the country. 

But it likely means that the small increase in cases was understated because less testing was done in some of the hardest-hit areas of the state.

Further muddying the data is the fact that it was reported on Easter Sunday. Everything from testing to data recording is done by real people, meaning that the weekends tend to have lower numbers reported. 

While the number of overall tests conducted was much higher than previous Sundays, there is a delay in confirmed cases because those results come back several days later and must be added to the count when they are completed.

Even with the uncertainty about exactly where the state is in the fight against coronavirus, it's clear that social distancing and the stay at home orders throughout the state appear to be having an impact. 

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