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Convention hall to handle New Orleans virus patient overflow

1 week 1 day 12 hours ago Thursday, March 26 2020 Mar 26, 2020 March 26, 2020 2:57 PM March 26, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The number of known coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped by more than 500 Thursday, surpassing 2,300, with 86 deaths, the state health department said.

A 17-year-old was among the latest deaths, the first in the state of someone under 18.

New Orleans continued to be a major center of COVID-19 worries. But cases also were up significantly in the opposite corner of the state. Northwest Louisiana’s Caddo Parish cases increased by 22, to 115; neighboring Bossier Parish was up to 32, an increase of 25 from the day before.

The higher infection numbers reflect the increase in testing. In Thursday’s figures, the number tested rose nearly 6600, to 18,000. Coronavirus has now been found in 53 of 64 parishes, although Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he believes it’s present in every parish, even as statewide mandates banning crowds and closing businesses continue.

“We won’t see the impact of the distancing and the closing of schools and people staying home for a couple of weeks. ... We are not near the peak of this yet,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease expert, and chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge.

New Orleans was gearing up Thursday for a possible overflow at area hospitals, with plans to treat as many as 3,000 patients at the city’s convention center.

The Morial Convention Center will be used for patients who no longer need ventilators to breathe, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a news conference Wednesday evening.

While hospitals were scrambling to reallocate personnel and seek more health care workers in anticipation of more cases, city officials said they are prepared to bring in workers from other areas to deal with those treated at the Morial Convention Center.

Business shutdowns because of state and local mandates and “stay-at-home” orders began showing up economic statistics Thursday. More than 72,600 people in Louisiana filed new unemployment claims last week, compared with nearly 2,300 a week earlier, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Although most people recover and many suffer only mild symptoms, COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — can cause serious illness including respiratory problems for some, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

There is also a growing need for protective masks and clothing to keep health care workers from getting the disease and life-saving ventilators for patients. By Wednesday, 491 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. Of those, 163 patients — still roughly one-third — required ventilation. On Thursday, the number hospitalized was up to 676. The state said 239 required ventilators.

Louisiana has the third-highest rate of confirmed virus cases per capita, Edwards said Wednesday. He warned that the state could run out of ventilators for patients in the New Orleans area in the first week of April.

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