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Though LA currently ranks low in nationwide COVID cases, experts urge caution

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BATON ROUGE — As the nation deals with a general surge in COVID-19 cases, Louisiana is struggling amid the pandemic, but not as badly as its neighbors to the midwest.

"Currently the data that we have right now is encouraging and comparatively speaking our rates along the state the state have been lower than those across the country," Dr. Dawn Marcelle, Regional Medical Director of the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) told WBRZ, Tuesday. "We have had a steady wave of cases in our area since last spring, since March. So I think it will be interesting to see what Winter will bring."

LDH's daily update on COVID virus statistics can be accessed here

Local health officials are waiting to see what will happen during the holidays.

They're also encouraging Louisiana's citizens to remain vigilant in practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings. 

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the U.S. hit a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations Tuesday and surpassed 1 million new confirmed cases in just the first 10 days of November amid a nationwide surge of infections that shows no signs of slowing.

The new wave appears larger and more widespread than the surges that occurred during 2020's spring and summer — and threatens to be worse. But experts say there are also reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.

“We’re definitely in a better place” when it comes to improved medical tools and knowledge, said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious-disease researcher.

Newly confirmed infections in the U.S. were running at all-time highs of well over 100,000 per day, pushing the total to more than 10 million and eclipsing 1 million since Halloween. There are now 61,964 people hospitalized, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Several states posted records Tuesday, including over 12,600 new cases in Illinois, 10,800 in Texas and 7,000 in Wisconsin.

Deaths are also climbing again, reaching an average of more than 930 a day.

But on a positive note, doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.

In addition to this, a vaccine appears to be on the horizon, perhaps around the end of the year, with Pfizer this week reporting early results showing that its experimental shots are a surprising 90% effective at preventing the disease.

And there’s a change pending in the White House, with President-elect Joe Biden vowing to rely on medical advisers and carry out a detailed coronavirus plan that experts say includes the kind of measures that will be necessary to bring the surge under control.

Biden pledged during the campaign to be guided by science, make testing free and widely available, hire thousands of health workers to undertake contact-tracing, and instruct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide clear, expert advice.

“We are already seeing encouraging signs from President-elect Biden with regard to his handling of COVID-19,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, a veteran epidemiologist who heads the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ public health programs.

So, though most states are seeing an increase in infection rates, relief appears to be near, in the form of effective vaccines and increased knowledge in the treatment of COVID-19. 

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