ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — At hospitals on the Northshore, a much-needed sigh of relief.
“We’re very relieved,” said Dr. Mike Hill who oversees the COVID unit at St. Tammany Parish Health System.
Back in mid-January Hill saw a peak of 66 COVID patients. As of Friday, there were 18. “We see the trend has been coming down over the last ten days and it really is a trend both here on the Northshore and for the entire state of Louisiana,” said Dr. Hill.
Statewide, hospitalizations have not increased at all since the beginning of February. As of Friday, there were 806 COVID hospitalizations. That’s the lowest since November 15 and a 61 percent drop since reaching a peak of 2,069 on January 7th.
“The hospitals are definitely a lot less busy from the COVID-19 perspective than they were last month,” said Dr. Julio Figueroa with LSU Health.
Dr. Figueroa is happy to see those trends but says numbers are still high compared to past downward trends, just before surges. With no recent big events, thanks to a less-than-normal Mardi Gras, Dr. Figueroa says restrictions and guidelines play a big role.
“The going back to previous phases, closing things down that were hotspots in terms of transmission I think were really important,” said Dr. Figueroa.
The downward trends are also giving way to welcomed sights. In New Orleans, bars are back to indoor service at 25 percent capacity. The New Orleans Pelicans confirms to Eyewitness News that starting next week, more fans will be allowed inside the Smoothie King Center. How many is still being worked out.
“It’s great. It’s really good news,” said Dr. Figueroa. “We need to keep on doing what we’re doing, but we’re not out of the woods yet."
Vaccines are also a big driver. St. Tammany Health System has given more than 7,000 of them so far. Dr. Hill says while COVID prediction models look good, the message is still the same.
“The message is still please do social distancing, please wearing a mask when you’re in public,” said Dr. Hill.
A message medical leaders hope will continue to drive down numbers, while lifting up spirits.