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Louisiana breaks new COVID cases record for second day in a row

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Louisiana also continue to sharply increase, topping more than 1,500 patients across the state.

NEW ORLEANS — It’s another day, and another record broken for most COVID-19 cases reported in Louisiana in a single day.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 14,802 new cases of the disease on Friday, along with 16 new deaths due to the virus. Friday’s figures top the previous record highest single-day increase in cases - 14,077 new cases - which was set on Thursday. 

Louisiana has broken the single-day record three times since Dec. 30 "and likely will do so again," the health department said.

"These increases are attributable to the Omicron variant, which spreads faster than other variants and is now the dominant strain in our state," the LDH said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Louisiana also continue to sharply increase, topping more than 1,500 patients across the state for the first time since mid-September. Of those patients hospitalized, about 78 percent were unvaccinated.

The drastic rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations has shown little to no signs of slowing down and has begun to strain Louisiana’s healthcare capacity. The health department said there were fewer than 10 ICU beds available Thursday in health region 6 which includes north-central Louisiana.

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston warned Thursday that the healthcare system in his parish was nearing capacity due to Omicron cases. Preston said some hospitals are diverting ambulances due to lack of beds and many urgent cares are reaching capacity every day.

“The COVID-19 Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, and the healthcare system is struggling to keep up with patient loads and requests for testing,” Preston said. “I encourage residents to call their primary care providers for most needs, and I continue to stress the value of COVID vaccines and boosters.”

How do I know if I have a cold, the flu or COVID-19?

Experts say testing is the best way to determine what you have since symptoms of the illnesses can overlap.

The viruses that cause colds, the flu and COVID-19 are spread the same way — through droplets from the nose and mouth of infected people. And they can all be spread before a person realizes they're infected.

The time varies for when someone with any of the illnesses will start feeling sick. Some people infected with the coronavirus don't experience any symptoms, but it's still possible for them to spread it.

Cough, fever, tiredness and muscle aches are common to both the flu and COVID-19, says Kristen Coleman, as assistant research professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Symptoms specific to COVID-19 include the loss of taste or smell.

Common colds, meanwhile, tend to be milder with symptoms including a stuffy nose and sore throat. Fevers are more common with the flu.

Despite some false portrayals online, the viruses have not merged to create a new illness. But it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which some are calling “flurona.”

“A co-infection of any kind can be severe or worsen your symptoms altogether,” says Coleman. “If influenza cases continue to rise, we can expect to see more of these types of viral co-infections in the coming weeks or months.”

With many similar symptoms caused by the three virus types, testing remains the best option to determine which one you may have. At-home tests for flu aren't as widely available as those for COVID-19, but some pharmacies offer testing for both viruses at the same time, Coleman notes. This can help doctors prescribe the right treatment.

Laboratories might also be able to screen samples for various respiratory viruses, including common cold viruses. But most do not have the capacity to routinely do this, especially during a COVID-19 surge, Coleman says.

Getting vaccinated helps reduce the spread of the viruses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is safe to get a flu and COVID-19 shot or booster at the same time.

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Associated Press reporter Victoria Milko contributed to this report.