Is New Orleans Winning the Battle Against COVID-19?

Eric Connerly Data News Weekly Contributor

Recently, the City of New Orleans lifted its indoor mask mandate. Also, the city just celebrated its first full Carnival Season in two years, and some are speculating that hopefully in the coming months, life in New Orleans can be back to normal.

But that is still not a certainty, as new COVID-19 numbers come in after Mardi Gras. If COVID-19 cases are down and hospitalizations are stable, the requirement to show proof to enter bars, restaurants and other venues will end on March 21, 2022.

The City of New Orleans, that once had the most infections in the nation, have experienced a sharp decline in new infections after a recent surge that was attributed to the Omicron Variant. Across the state hospital numbers continue to fall. Most importantly, in New Orleans, more than 96% of the city’s adult population is at least partially vaccinated and nearly 85% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the city’s figures.

While it may be soon that restrictions are lifted New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno, strongly supports individuals’ decisions to continue masking and the rights of businesses to continue masking requirements.

Jamie Jones is a local educator and parent who feels a gradual approach is needed and proceeding with caution is the best course of action in the fight against COVID-19. “We should not let our guard down and continue to wear our masks. COVID is still a problem for our city. We are not through; it and people are still getting sick. Even if mandates are lifted masking up should for some may be their best option. I say this because, it can impact people differently. We should still be careful.”

The battle against COVID-19 is far from over, but new vaccinations, boosters and other therapies are available to help in the fight against COVID-19. According to the Louisiana’s Department of Health, the state has received its most recent federal allotment of COVID-19 therapeutics, including 7,594 doses of drugs recently receiving Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization to treat the virus. The shipments dated Feb 21st-27th include the long-acting antibody combination Evusheld, monoclonal antibody treatments bebtelovimab and sotrovimab, as well as antiviral pills molnupiravir and paxlovid. In addition, other treatments are available to people as young as 12 years old.

“None of these are a silver bullet,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s State Health Officer in a recent statement. “Like any medicines there are tradeoffs. They do treat COVID very well, but for some people that might be on certain medicines it might not be worth the risk – altering those medicines or going down on those doses. That’s why it’s always best to talk to your doctor.”

Kantor added paxlovid has proven most effective at keeping COVID-19 symptoms from getting worse and keeping 70 – 90% of patients out of the hospital. But he said it could interact with other medicines a person is already taking.

Also speaking on the new developments in the fight against COVID-19 is Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Ochsner Health said the other pill, molnupiravir, is not recommended for pregnant women, or men or women who are trying to conceive.

While many are now getting vaccinated, both doctors agree the COVID-19 Vaccine followed by a booster shot five months later is the best defense against the virus. But they also said the new treatments carry the promise of much-needed relief.

“All of these things help to prevent that stress on our hospitals, on our community, on our economy,” says Dr. Baumgarten. “We all want to participate in Mardi Gras, which we just had, Jazz Fest is coming up, and the French Quarter Fest, so we want to make sure all of us can do that safely. These are ways we can help to be sure that the virus is well controlled, and we have the ability to treat it as soon as we possibly can.”

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