BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana confirmed two more cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant in the state, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Thursday.
The cases of the new strain were confirmed in southwest Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans area. The Louisiana Department of Health previously confirmed a third case of the variant in the New Orleans area.
LDH said that another 14 additional suspected variant cases are pending additional confirmatory testing - eight more in the Greater New Orleans area and six others in Southwest Louisiana.
The health department said there are likely many more undetected cases in those areas and across Louisiana because most COVID-19 lab tests are not able to identify specific variant strains.
"We all need to take this very, very seriously," Edwards said. "These variants are very concerning. We know they are more contagious."
The variant, frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it was first detected in the United Kingdom, spreads more easily from one person to another than other viral strains circulating the globe.
The LDH says that current COVID-19 vaccines are thought to be effective against the U.K. variant strain but further study is needed to determine if the strain causes a more severe case of COVID-19.
Edwards’ public update comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state continue to decline after reaching record-levels in early January. On Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 1,590 patients were hospitalized across the state with the coronavirus disease. Wednesday was also the first time since mid-December that hospitalizations fell below the 1,600 peak set early in the pandemic.
Figures show that Louisiana has also administered nearly 40,000 doses of the vaccine since Tuesday. In total, nearly 58,000 people (1.24% of the state’s population) have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Louisiana reported an additional 55 deaths due to complications from the virus. In total, 8,743 people in Louisiana have died since the outbreak was first discovered in early March 2020.
Who Can get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Louisiana?
According to the Louisiana Department of Health website, here's who is eligible to get the vaccine as of late January.
- Persons age 70 years or older in the community,
- Health-related support personnel (labs, mortuary, pharmacy),
- Outpatient clinic providers and clinic staff,
- Urgent care clinic providers and staff,
- Community care clinic providers and staff,
- Behavioral health providers and staff,
- Dialysis providers and recipients,
- Home care providers (including hospice workers) and home care recipients (including older and younger people with disabilities over the age of 16 who receive community or home-based care, as well as clients of home health agencies),
- Dental providers and staff, and
- Students, residents, faculty and staff of allied health schools (if not already receiving vaccine or in a plan to receive from their respective schools).
Patients must contact a participating location and make an appointment at the location. Patients who arrive without an appointment will not be vaccinated. Vaccinations are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. Do not arrive at a location without an appointment. LDH cannot make appointments for residents; only participating locations can.