The Louisiana Department of Health is issuing updated guidance for the holidays, as the Omicron variant spreads and COVID-19 trends worsen.
"CDC estimates that Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States and in Louisiana's region," said State Epidemiologist Theresa Sokol. "It is startling how quickly this happened, but it is not surprising."
Meanwhile, COVID-19 incidence, statewide percent positivity and hospitalizations are on the rise. LDH reports a 60% increase in COVID-19 incidence, when comparing last week and this week's 7-day averages. Also, COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to increase over the last four days. Statewide percent positivity increased from 2.2% last week to 3.3% this week.
Two weeks ago, 35% of parishes were at "substantial" or "high" risk of COVID-19 spread in the community, a categorization based on a community indicator classification system developed by the CDC. Last week, 65% of parishes fell into these two highest-risk categories. LDH will report updated data this Wednesday, but anticipates the vast majority of parishes in Louisiana will find themselves at "substantial" or "high" community risk this week.
In light of this rapidly evolving situation and because we know families are traveling and gathering over the next two weeks, LDH is sharing updated public health guidance so that families can celebrate safely:
To protect yourself, get vaccinated and, if eligible, get boosted. The COVID-19 vaccine protects against severe outcomes from COVID, including hospitalization and death. If you are not yet vaccinated, you are unprotected. While getting the vaccine protects you from a severe outcome, a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus to others.
If you have questions about vaccines, you can speak to a medical professional and learn about vaccination sites near you by calling Louisiana's vaccine hotline at 855-453-0774.
To reduce transmission, regardless of vaccination status, mask indoors when not with your everyday household. LDH recommends wearing masks indoors in all public settings. People should consider wearing a mask indoors in private settings as well, especially if you are gathering with individuals at a high risk of severe outcome, which includes older people and those with underlying health conditions. Masks are effective in protecting infection against all of the currently circulating variants.
Regardless of vaccination status, get tested multiple times. Get a test before you travel, before a gathering, and upon returning from travel. Remember that COVID-19 tests are snapshots in time.
There are COVID-19 test sites throughout Louisiana. Visit ldh.la.gov/covidtesting or call 211 to find a test site near you. As a reminder, all community-based sites operated by the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.