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Ochsner Health seeing uptick in young COVID-19 patients, CEO says

"We definitely are seeing an uptick in cases and positive cases throughout the region," Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said.

Ochsner hospitals in the New Orleans metro area are dealing with an increase in young COVID-19 patients, the CEO said Thursday. 

"We definitely are seeing an uptick in cases and positive cases throughout the region," said Ochsner Health president and CEO Warner Thomas. 

Thomas said the percentage of total hospitalized patients 40 and younger has nearly doubled since the beginning of the outbreak. 

"We’re seeing a younger population. If you go back to the beginning in March, about 25% were 40 and under. Today, it’s about 50%," Thomas said.

The increase comes as officials raise the red flags about a rise in Louisiana's coronavirus spread, which health leaders say is being tracked back to young people ignoring safety guidelines. 

"We've had more than 9,000 people in the 18-29 age group test positive for COVID, and this age group now is outpacing all the others in total cases," Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. 

The state's findings follow Edwards' decision to delay Louisiana's phase three reopening for at least a month. 

Thomas said the hospitals are prepared to safely treat patients, but that the fate of the state falls to those who are not treating the virus like a dangerous issue. 

"Whether we go to phase three, whether we stay in phase two, whether we go backwards to phase one, this is all up to the public," Thomas said. "If we’re not wearing masks, if we’re not social distancing, if we’re not washing our hands, not having big gatherings, it is going to create a challenge for the state." 

SEE: Cantrell threatens to shutdown New Orleans 'without any hesitation' if COVID-19 rules aren't followed

He also said his staff is seeing more medical care being delayed -- people who wait to go to the hospital and end up in much worse shape condition as a result. 

"It's safe to get care if you need it," Thomas said, referencing to the hospitals' zero tolerance policy on breaking safety guidelines. 

The Louisiana Department of Health reported nearly 900 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, down from the months-long high reported Tuesday but still up from recent weeks. 

Multiple states around the country are now reporting their highest increases in coronavirus cases. 

Here are the daily coronavirus statistics for Wednesday, June 24 from the Louisiana Department of Health. Changes from the day before are noted:

  • Cases: 52,477 (+882)
  • Deaths: 3,039 (+18)
  • Patients in hospitals: 631 (-15)
  • Patients on ventilators: 77 (-6)
  • Recoveries: 39,792 (updated on Mondays) 
  • Total tests performed: 648,505 (+12,566)

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