NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana surpassed another grim milestone on Wednesday: More than 8,000 people have died due to COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 51 new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Wednesday, pushing the total number of deaths to 8,022. Of those deaths, 5,498 - almost 69 percent - were from people ages 70 and older.
In the last seven days, 294 people have died in the state due to complications from the virus.
The nation's overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Louisiana decreased slightly by six on Tuesday. In total, 2,029 patients with the disease are hospitalized across the state.
The state department of health reported an additional 2,902 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 355,835 in Louisiana since the outbreak was first detected in early March 2020.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is calling on Louisiana's employers to keep workers at home if possible. But the Democratic governor Tuesday stopped short of tightening his current restrictions on businesses any further.
Edwards says he renewed the same coronavirus rules he’s had in place since late November. They were slated to expire Wednesday.
Those rules include a statewide mask mandate and provisions keeping bars limited to outdoor and delivery service. They also include restrictions on the number of customers allowed in nonessential businesses such as restaurants and salons.
Meanwhile, Louisiana’s pace of vaccinations appeared to be improving. The health department says nearly 160,000 doses have been administered.
More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.
The effort is ramping up around the country. Large-scale, drive-thru vaccination sites have opened at stadiums and other places, enabling people to get their shots through their car windows.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.