Ochsner CEO doesn’t see state’s COVID surge easing anytime soon

As Louisiana faces a fourth wave of rapidly escalating coronavirus cases, the CEO of the 40-hospital Ochsner Health system says there’s no sign yet of the hardship easing.

“We do not see any plateauing at this point in time on our models,” Warner Thomas said Thursday morning during a New Orleans news conference. He says the system had 890 COVID-19 patients as of this morning—a 73% increase from last week. And 90% of the patients are unvaccinated.

A top executive for the four-hospital Willis-Knighton Health System says the same. Brian Crawford, chief administrative officer for the Shreveport-Bossier City area health system, says the system has been able to cope so far, but unlike the three earlier surges that hit Louisiana, Crawford says this one could last for months, straining hospitals beyond their capacity.

As caseloads grow exponentially, he says the state health department isn’t even giving hospitals a projection of when it expects this surge to lessen.

All around Louisiana, health officials describe inundated hospitals grappling with an influx of COVID-19 patients, surgery schedules disrupted by the patient overload and too few nurses and respiratory therapists to staff all their beds:

• More than 30,000 people in Louisiana have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says Louisiana has the highest per-capita rate of new cases across the country.

• The state continued to set new daily hospitalization records on Thursday, with 2,350 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 103 more than the day before, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health. Dozens of new deaths from the coronavirus illness are being recorded each day.

Pleas from hospital leaders—coupled with the woeful regrets of nonvaccinated families—may be having some effect in persuading people to get the shots in a state that remains among the bottom five in coronavirus immunization rates:

• After weeks of largely flat demand, with about 18,000 to 20,000 people seeking their first coronavirus vaccine each week, Louisiana saw more than 29,000 seek their first shot the week of July 12, as COVID-19 caseloads exploded.

• By the week of July 26, nearly 77,000 got their first shots, according to vaccination data from the state health department.

Read more from the Associated Press.

This story originally appeared in an Aug. 5 edition of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.