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LDH: Expect to see higher infection rates thanks to COVID variants in Louisiana

"Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are the only way to put the pandemic behind us. We're seeing more staff saying 'We're ready for our first dose.'"

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards updated the public on the state's COVID-19 response Friday.

There are signs that the third Coronavirus surge in Louisiana is beginning to subside.

The governor noted that all 64 of Louisiana's parishes are in the CDC's highest risk category, with more than 100 new infections per capita over 7 days.

Dr. Joespeh Kanter with the Louisiana Health Department said he wouldn't be surprised to see the rate of spread increase in the coming weeks because of variants of the virus.

"The UK variant of the COVID-19 is in Louisiana," Kanter said. "Everyone needs to know that. These are still dangerous days for Louisiana."

"I'm encouraged by the progress that we're making, and I know we have a long ways to go," Edwards said. "There is too much hesitancy with the COVID vaccines. They are safe and effective, and they are the only way to put the pandemic behind us. We happy to see people anxious to get the vaccine."

The state department of health will have a new addition to its online COVID online resources: a vaccination dashboard to see how many Louisianans have been vaccinated so far, the governor said. 

That dashboard will be updated on Tuesdays and Thursdays, along with any other COVID-19 vaccine information.

Another feature of the state's COVID response presented Friday is exposure notifications called COVID defense. It is anonymous.

"This will allow the phone to communicate through Bluetooth in a limited radius," Kanter said.

One of the concerns Gov. Edwards addressed during the update was equity in vaccination distribution.

Edwards said the information that the department of health believes is erroneous says from 55% to 56%of vaccinations have been administered to people of unknown or other races.

"Quite frankly, we don't know what's happening there as to vaccines by race," Edwards said. 

Kanter said the data was "obviously erroneous," and he said work will be done so that the information from the vaccine administrators will be more accurate.

"There is no way to track this other than getting the right data," Kanter said. "I want to see that 56% get lower and lower."

Just two weeks ago, every region in the state showed an upward trend in new cases. The statewide test positive rate, a measure of how many total tests come back positive was about 17%.  

New cases are now falling across the state. The test positive rate now is hovering around 7%.  

Louisiana has reported roughly 2,452 new coronavirus cases per day over the last 7 days. That 7-day average has fallen from its peak of 3,736 new cases on Jan. 8. 

Louisiana has been under Phase 2 restrictions since November. On Jan. 12, Gov. Edwards extended those restrictions for another month.

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. 

As of Jan. 21, more than 260,000 Louisiana residents have received their first does of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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