- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2020

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose Sunday but the rate of infection appeared to have slowed dramatically, according to figures released by the Louisiana Department of Health.

The state had a total of 3,540 confirmed cases as of noon CDT Sunday, compared to 3,315 on March 28.

That increase of 225 cases, or less than 7%, marks a dramatic flattening of the curve Louisiana had experienced last week, when the percentage rise was as high as 28% on some days.

The deaths of another 14 people were attributed to the virus Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 151.

Information on the age and underlying medical conditions of the deceased was not immediately available, but as of Saturday the average age of those felled by the bug was nearly 70 and 41% of them had suffered from diabetes, the state said.



Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has repeatedly pointed to that figure as the most significant one in determining whether the state’s health care system could absorb the surge of infected patients.

In figures it updates every 24 hours, the LDH said 1,127 people are hospitalized Sunday by the virus that has raced across the planet since first infecting people last year in Wuhan, China.

While the flatter curve was welcome news, Louisiana’s clusters of coronavirus in nursing homes or assisted care facilities almost doubled, going from 11 on Saturday to 20 Sunday, the LDH reported.

Of that total, 380, or roughly one-third, require ventilators. That compared to 927 patients and 336 who needed ventilators 24 hours earlier.

Louisiana has become an especially hard-hit zone for the virus because of the millions of visitors it attracts for its three-week Carnival celebration.

Health experts believe that bacchanalia, which peaked with Mardi Gras on Feb. 25, functioned as a kind of coronavirus whirlpool.

In a nationally televised appearance last week, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Latoya Cantrell tried to blame President Trump for failing to cancel Mardi Gras. But at the time of the blowout the city’s top officials were assuring the public there was nothing to fear.

On Feb. 26, the morning after Mardi Gras, New Orleans director of health Dr. Jennifer Avegno said neither the city nor the region had anything to fear from COVID-19, but should worry about the flu.

“At this point, there is no heightened danger to us in New Orleans or to us in the region,” Dr. Avegno said of coronavirus that day.

Yet the current flu season, she said, had been particularly brutal, killing an estimated 16,000 nationally between October and February and infecting nearly 79,000 people in Louisiana by Feb. 15.

Consequently, the real danger with Mardi Gras was flu, not coronavirus, Dr. Avengo said in February.

The virus has been particularly virulent in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, which adjoins it to the west and south. But by Sunday afternoon cases were confirmed in 59 of the Pelican State’s 64 parishes, the LDH said.

As of Sunday, 48% of Louisiana’s coronavirus deaths have been in New Orleans, and that figure jumps to nearly 67% when Jefferson Parish is included, according to LDH tables.

The virus’s lethality remains almost exclusively confined to the elderly, with those 70 or older comprising the biggest groups of deaths by far. Only a handful of cases have been reported in those 50 or younger, and as of Sunday only one death has occurred of a person under the age of 36.

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