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Amid nationwide concern over Omicron COVID variant, La. hospitalizations still low

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BATON ROUGE - The newest variant of the coronavirus is likely making people sick as new cases of COVID creep up in Louisiana.

Monday, new cases of the virus were double the amount of new cases from the week prior.

It's believed the omicron variant has been detected in every region of the state, though the largest number of people confirmed to be ill with the newest variant are in the New Orleans area.  The health department warned Monday, new cases are expected to balloon as the omicron variant spreads.

Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta, but much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.

Still, the number of people hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19 remains low so far, reported at 241 patients Monday. That continues to be among the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since March 2020 and well below the state’s peak of more than 3,000 in August.

However, the state is tracking a nearly 30% jump in hospitalizations since Friday. 265 patients hospitalized with the virus will be reported statewide Tuesday.

“We feel very confident in saying that omicron is now circulating throughout our state, and that the proportion of cases attributable to omicron is likely to increase dramatically over the next few weeks,” State Epidemiologist Theresa Sokol said in a statement.

During a virtual briefing with media Monday, Sokol said testing will be a key component of the upcoming holiday season.

"Regardless of vaccination status, we want people to get tested multiple times," Sokol said. "We want folks to be tested before traveling, before gathering, and again when you return."

Health officials continue to urge people around Louisiana to get a COVID vaccine and booster shots.  Of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 80% are unvaccinated, according to the state health department.  Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

When asked by WBRZ this weekend, the health department would not offer information about if it is tracking infection rates among people who received a COVID booster.  The Louisiana Department of Health only revealed initial breakthrough case synopsis in August of the two-dose and single-dose vaccines.  WBRZ asked for months for the information.

Louisiana has one of the nation’s lowest immunization rates against the coronavirus. More than 2.3 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to the health department, just under half of Louisiana’s total population.


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