Hospitals in New Orleans are bracing for public health emergencies on two fronts as Hurricane Ida threatens to strike at the same time as Louisiana is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.
New Orleans is in the midst of a “severe outbreak” with a seven-day average of 220 new infections, according to the city’s Covid-19 dashboard. Across the state, more than 3,400 new cases were confirmed as of Friday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. At least 2,684 people are hospitalized in Louisiana with Covid-19.
Last month, Louisiana hit the biggest single-day increase of Covid-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic’s start with 6,800 new cases in a single day, the second-highest single-day case count since Jan. 6, 2021.
“Once again we find ourselves dealing with a natural disaster in the midst of a pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Avengo, New Orleans public health director. “Our plea and our hope is that everyone will prepare for both very seriously and very thoroughly.”
Avengo added that residents still have time to receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine if they have not done so already. Unvaccinated residents account for 90 percent of new infections recorded between Aug. 12 and 18, and 91 percent of current hospitalizations, according to the state health department.
“We urge you to do that to give yourself that extra protection,” Avengo said. “If you are vaccinated, thank you.”
The storm is expected to slam the northern Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm on Sunday with maximum winds of 140 mph, according to forecasters — 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana as a devastating Category 3 storm.
Health care systems across New Orleans are already putting contingency plans in place, including beefing up staffing, ordering a surplus of supplies and minimizing the amount of patients who are admitted to hospitals with non-emergencies.
“We definitely were in full disaster mode and getting ready for this storm,” said Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health.
Ochsner has ordered 10 days worth of food, medication and medical supplies, Thomas said.