Louisiana tops 3,000 mark in coronavirus cases

NEW ORLEANS — The coronavirus continued its steady march here Saturday, with a total of 3,315 cases in the state and the mayor trying to blame President Trump for not canceling Mardi Gras.

As of noon on March 28, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 569 new cases in the past day and a death toll of 137 attributed to the virus that first infected humans in Wuhan, China, last year.

Though the rate of infection increase remained close to 21%, that nevertheless marked a decline from just three days ago when Louisiana cases were jumping at 28% over the 24-hour periods tracked by the LDH.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, who issued shelter-in-place orders for the state March 22, has repeatedly stressed that if Louisianan fails to curb the rate of increase the state could find itself short of ventilators and hospital beds in early April.

A total of 927 patients were hospitalized statewide with the virus as of Saturday afternoon, with slightly more than one-third of them — 336 — requiring ventilators, the LDH reported.

Those figures were increasing at a much faster rate than new infections. The state saw an increase of 14% in hospitalizations between March 26-27, but that increased to a 19% pace from March 27-28, according to the LDH. Similarly, the 24-hour percentage increase in those needing ventilation jumped from 13% of those hospitalized to 24%.

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy picked up on that theme Saturday morning, telling Fox News he believed a U.S. Navy hospital ship like the ones that have been sent to New York and Los Angeles harbors should be docked in the Port of New Orleans.

The city remains the hardest hit part of the state, although by Friday there were confirmed coronavirus cases in 56 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, according to the LDH.

Experts have increasingly pointed to New Orleans’ famous Carnival celebration as a source of virus spread, given the event attracts millions of visitors over a 3-week period before culminating this year in massive Mardi Gras celebrations on Feb. 25.

For her part, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Latoya Cantrell went on CNN Friday and implied it was President Trump’s fault for not ordering the city to halt Mardi Gras.

Local authorities let the party continue unabated this year despite calls from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies that the U.S. should brace for a significant coronavirus outbreak.

The state also increased the number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities where a coronavirus cluster has been spotted from 8 to 11.

For the first time, the average age of those whose deaths are attributed to coronavirus in Louisiana fell below 70 to 69.3. Only 16 of the 119 dead thus far were age 50 or younger — 13.4% — with one below the age of 36.

The LDH also furnished some information on “underlying conditions among COVID-19 related deaths.” Those figures showed that 41% of those killed suffered from diabetes and 31% from chronic kidney disease.

Cardiac was listed as an underlying condition for 23% and 28% were classified as obese.

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