Nov. 20 COVID update for Avoyelles: Bad, but not as bad it seems

State clears backlog of over 2,500 cases, resulting in large jump in case numbers

If you thought Louisiana's apparent stalemate with COVID-19 was a little too good to be true, you may have been right.

Friday's update for the state and for Avoyelles Parish was "jolting," to say the least as the Louisiana Department of Health found 2,538 COVID cases in 69,125 test results that had not been reported previously.

Clearing that backlog resulted in the state reporting 4,814 new cases in its Friday update.

Avoyelles Parish had 36 new cases -- 35 confirmed and one probable. That brings the parish's new pandemic total to 1,929 confirmed cases and 68 probable cases, for a total of 1,997. The number of COVID-related deaths in Avoyelles since March is still 67 -- 65 confirmed and two probable.

Few imagined when Avoyelles' first case was identified on March 21 that the number would reach 2,000 by the end of the year. Nor did they dare consider on March 31 that the number of deaths would increase from that first one to 67 before Thanksgiving.

The statewide figures as of Friday's "catch up" report is 207,039 confirmed, 9,670 probable cases and 5,985 confirmed and 248 probable deaths.

The new totals are bad, both locally and statewide, but on the "good news" side, they do not reflect a sudden increase in the presence of COVID in the community. On the "bad news" side again, it indicates COVID was a bigger threat over the past few weeks than we thought it was. That feeling that COVID had become a rarity may have resulted in people deciding it was safe to go without masks and venture more freely into the community. That, in turn, could be one reason why infection rates are increasing across the state.

The backlogged cases will not affect parish's weekly positive rate -- which is used to determine when a parish is eligible for relaxed restrictions. The Health Department said it will reallocate the backlogged lab results back to their specimen collection dates, which range from as far back as Sept. 12 to as recent as Nov. 18. Of the 2,538 new cases in Friday's batch, 1,038 date back to Halloween.

The two biggest areas providing the backlogged cases were in Shreveport/Bossier with 498 and Monroe with 872. The LDH said 85 percent of the identified cases are from "community spread" with only 15 percent linked to congregate settings such as nursing homes and prisons.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is experiencing a "third surge" of COVID, also called a "third wave" in some reports. For the past few weeks health officials have expressed concern that the record-setting infection and hospitalization rates in other states would eventually hit Louisiana. The first surge was the initial few months of the pandemic. The second was shortly after the state entered Phase 2. The state had slowed the spread of COVID for the past two months, going from leading the nation in cases per 100,000 population to having one of the lowest new-case rates.

On Friday the 13th, the state had its largest single-day increase in COVID since the pandemic began in March. There were 3,492 new cases reported on that day.

Positivity rates are increasing, with 55 of 64 parish's rates higher than the previous week.

Hospitalizations are increasing. On Friday there were 972 Louisianans in hospitals with COVID with 101 of those on ventilators.

LDH has recently identified outbreaks at four bars resulting in 21 cases. In its most recent report on "hotspots," the state said there had been 18 outbreaks involving 97 cases. Four outbreaks were linked to restaurants, four to industrial settings and three to religious services. Two COVID-related deaths were traced back to church services.

Another concern is an increased number of outbreaks and cases associated with small social gatherings such as happy hours, game nights and family dinners.

"The public should keep this in mind with less than a week until Thanksgiving," the LDH said in a press release. "Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands often. Take any small gathering outdoors. We know these simple public health measures work when we all take them to heart."

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