Doctor: COVID cases improving, but region still at risk

Published 5:24 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

JENNINGS — Region 5 Office of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh said Wednesday the number of COVID-19 cases in Southwest Louisiana are improving, but cautioned that the region is still at high risk.

Addressing the Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury, Cavanaugh said even though COVID-19 cases have dropped in recent weeks, Southwest Louisiana is nearing the 100 cases per 100,000 people threshold that the CDC considers high transmission.

“SWLA is definitely far better than it was six or eight weeks ago, but is still at a level the CDC defines as high,” she said.

“We are still in the red in almost all parishes in Southwest Louisiana … red is bad,” she continued. “We are way better than we were before, but we are just now getting to that threshold which the CDC defines as high transmission which is 100 cases per 100,000 people per week. That is a high level of COVID in the community and the risk is high.

“During the Delta surge we were up to 800 per 100,000 so we were eight times past the threshold that the CDC sits for high. We are now back down hovering around that 100 in our region so I suspect, if we haven’t already in the last day or two turned into the orange, I suspect, we are on our way back down that curve to the orange.”

On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health was reporting 42 new cases and three new deaths in Region 5, which includes Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Allen parishes.

Jeff Davis Parish reported three new cases and no deaths with 36 percent of its population vaccinated.

Cavanaugh said public health officials have been extremely busy the past two years with the many disasters in Southwest Louisiana, including two hurricanes, a flood in Lake Charles, an ice storm and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In general, I think all of these disasters and COVID have worsened our overall health, especially from a mental health standpoint.” she said. “We have a lot of trauma and stress within our communities which is a risk factor for poor health outcomes.”

“We weren’t good to begin with. Louisiana is last in almost every health measure and we continue to be because things have not gotten better since all these pandemics and disasters, so I think we have a really, really long way to go to improve the health of our communities.”

The last year has also been a whirlwind for public health officials.

“Fortunately right now our COVID work has started to come to some sort of normalcy as the case counts from this most recent Delta surge have come down,” she said.

Local health units are still busy providing drive thru vaccinations and testing with the assistance of the Louisiana National Guard in many areas, she said.

Despite the additional demand of the pandemic and disasters, public health officials have kept up with the demand for its regular services, including immunizations, WIC services and environmental services, Cavanaugh said.

Upcoming flu clinics are also being planned.

“We have also had a lot of collaboration with community partners including local hospitals throughout the emergency responses to the nursing homes providing support to nursing homes regarding COVID testing and evacuations and emergency preparedness,” she said.. “We had a lot of facilities either damaged, impacted or on generator power during those weather events.”

Public health officials have also worked closely with school boards on health related issues, she said.