I’m not usually one to dive into topics that are just horribly grim, but everything I’m going to tell you next is important to how we are forecasting and tracking COVID-19, and, in my personal opinion, needs to be said.
As I write this (week of Aug. 20), COVID-19 is killing around 30 of our family, friends and neighbors in Louisiana every day. Nearly 4,500 Louisianians have died since we started tracking COVID-19 deaths in February. In fact, nationwide, COVID-19 is now the THIRD-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only cancer and heart disease. That means COVID-19 is now killing more people than accidents, injuries, strokes, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many, many other causes. We have to take this virus very seriously, especially the trends of Louisianians dying from it.
COVID-19 Is a Rollercoaster
Here’s my latest tracking graph:
Notice that when COVID-19 first hit, when medical professionals knew very little about the virus, the people dying from it jumped up and then only went down when we went to a full economic shutdown in March of this year. After that shutdown ended in May, COVID-19 deaths were reduced to between 10 and 15 per day.
Then, in late June and throughout the month of July, we had a significant resurgence of COVID-19, and the death rate climbed quickly from 10-12 deaths per day into the 30s, where it has hung now for almost four weeks.
I want to point out that each data point on this graph is the AVERAGE of that day and the previous six days. So, each data point is actually affected by the previous six days. Just like with the hospital data we showed previously (and below), using the seven-day moving averages forces trends in the data out where we can see them.
Why Aren’t Deaths Going Down Yet?
Despite a significant decrease in people in the hospital, deaths haven’t started going down yet. There are several reasons why that could be the case.
First cause: The cycle of a COVID-19 infection. Let’s say you are exposed to COVID-19 on Day One. On average, you won’t feel any symptoms until Day Six or Seven. If you get really sick and go into the hospital on Day Seven, on average, if you were not going to survive, you’d pass away on Day 22-23.
So, if you go back to the beginning of that cycle and AVOID being exposed on Day One, the difference in the death rate wouldn’t show up until day 22 or 23, on average. The governor’s orders on masking-up, limiting crowds and closing bars went into effect July 13, so we would expect to see deaths start to drop off in mid-August.
Pre-Existing Health Conditions Matter
COVID-19 kills people at a higher rate when they are older and/or have diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure. In Louisiana, we have more diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure than almost any other state, so when our residents get COVID-19, it’s more likely they will have chronic conditions that will make their case more severe and ultimately more likely to put their lives at risk.
Sadly, this means Louisiana, because of our higher rates of chronic health conditions will have a higher death rate from COVID-19, and it will take longer to come down even as we are all more careful.
Common Sense Wasn’t on the Menu
And despite the fact that I KNOW in my heart that most of you are taking the governor’s order seriously and watching out for your fellow Louisianians by masking up, social distancing, washing your hands and being careful out there, I have run across a surprising number of hold-outs to common sense and protecting their neighbors.
Imagine my surprise last Sunday when my wife and I went to a restaurant our friends recommended we try. We put on our masks, walked in the door and found a very busy restaurant, packed with people at tables still right on top of each other and not a single human anywhere was wearing a mask. I checked the customers and the staff, even peeking in the kitchen area, and did not see a single mask. There were no signs indicating people had to wear them, and when we walked in wearing our masks, people stared at us.
We left immediately, shocked that people could be so selfish and careless. We visited another sit-down restaurant about half a mile away and found a completely in-compliance establishment where we felt safe dining!
While I’m pleased that in general, I see people wearing masks and following the rules when I go out, it’s clear COVID-19-deniers are still out there. And, we still have lots of people in the hospitals and dying of COVID-19. You don’t have to do business with any establishment that is willing to put your life and health, and the life and health of your loved ones, at risk. I suggest you don’t.
So, we’ve still got some work to do. I choose to believe that particular restaurant and these particular people are in the minority in Louisiana. That not all people are so uncaring for their fellow man at this critical time and basking in their own selfishness.
Straight Talk is, denial is not a pandemic strategy that will save our economy and our state. Please keep masking up, social distancing, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face, and we’ll get through this.
Hospitalization Trend Is Going Down
Oh, and by the way, I do have some good news on the hospitalization data front. Here is the latest data, updated from what I shared with you last week. You can see the number of Louisianians in the hospital with COVID-19 is still trending in a good direction. The seven-day moving average is down by 137. That is 137 fewer hospital beds occupied with COVID-19 patients!
Everything we are doing right is working, we just have to stay focused and not get complacent.
Masks = Jobs. At this time, there is no other way. You can see me elaborate on that in an interview I did last week with WWL-TV’s “Great Day Louisiana.”