Newell: "Lagging" virus indicators starting to catch up with caseload



Louisiana’s Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter joined Newell for his recurring weekly segment Thursday morning to discuss the latest developments in the battle against COVID-19, preventative measures, and the search for effective treatments or even a vaccine. This week,  there’s not much to celebrate.“Doctor, what does the most recent update tell us about what we’re experiencing in Louisiana right now?” Newell began.“Cases continue to go up, and what we’re seeing now is the lagging indicators increasing as well,” Kanter replied. “We have leading indicators like cases, people presenting to emergency rooms with concerning symptoms, and then we have lagging indicators that take a while to show, like hospital beds filling up with COVID, and people dying from COVID. The big issue this past week has been trying to maintain enough hospital capacity across the state for all the COVID patients needing acute care. We have about three times as many hospitalized COVID patients now as we did in the middle of June, a very big increase. We still have available beds in the New Orleans region, other parts of the state like Lafayette, Lake Charles and Alexandria are really tight right now and are starting to send some of their patients here. Fatalities are starting to pick up as well. This was a fear that we had talked about a few weeks ago when we saw the increase in cases among younger adults aged 18-29. We shouldn't expect to see the virus contain itself among that particular age group, and in the past two weeks we’ve seen the rate of increase among older individuals go up, and now we’re seeing the fatalities go up as well, which was expected. The challenge of the day is to mitigate the surge in hospitals.”“I saw that Our Lady of the Lake has announced they've put non-emergency surgeries on hold to make room for a number of folks coming for inpatient coronavirus care,” Newell continued.“That was the right move by them, but it’s not a good marker of where we are,” Kanter said. “If you’re a patient who has been preparing for a couple of months for a cardiac procedure or a hip replacement, this is really disruptive for you and that’s unfortunate. Also, as these large tertiary referral centers fill up, it means they can’t accept transfers of patients from the smaller rural hospitals, and that’s a big problem. If you live in a rural area and you have a condition that would be treated at a bigger hospital that has more expertise, that service might not be available to you right now and that’s a big detriment to folks’ health.”“I watched an interview with Dr. Deborah Birx last night, and she spoke at length about how the COVID-19 presentation in the Southeast, South, and Southwest has been vastly different than it has been in the Northwest and Northeast,” Newell said. “The infection rate we are experiencing down here is vastly different. It occurred to me that we continue to be exacerbated by the volatility and uncertainty around this disease. Your thoughts?”