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Thursday update: COVID-19 cases up in Concordia and Catahoula parishes as backlog of tests pour in to state health department

Parish officials reported eight cases of COVID-19 and one virus-related death Thursday.

The Concordia Parish Department of Homeland Security reported two new cases of the COVID-19 virus Thursday. The two new cases of the virus are from a Ferriday health clinic for a total of eight cases.

Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Timothy Vanier said Thursday that two of the eight cases were reported from Ferriday Family Health. One is a 28-year-old and another is a 32-year-old who are both quarantined at home.

Two of the eight Concordia Parish residents with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Rapides Parish, Vanier said, adding a third patient, Kejuane Bates, 36, died Wednesday at Merit Health Natchez. 

The Louisiana Department of Health reported five cases of COVID-19 in Catahoula Parish.

Louisiana’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases spiked 42% higher Thursday as a backlog of test results poured in and confirmed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ message that the virus’s footprint across the state is much wider than limited testing has been able to document so far.

Nearly 9,200 people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the latest figures released by the Louisiana Department of Health, a jump of more than 2,700 confirmed cases from a day earlier and the largest single-day increase reported so far.

But the governor emphasized that Thursday’s large increase reflects the growing level of testing statewide — and a break in the logjam of getting test results from commercial labs, hospitals and small testing sites to Louisiana authorities for confirmation. More than 5,300 new test results were reported to the state overnight, the figures showed.

Edwards said many of the tests were done days ago, and he emphasized that most of those infected are self-isolating at home, not requiring a hospital bed. About 18% of the people confirmed to have the virus are hospitalized, according to the state data.

“We want people focused on what they can do about it. Don’t be despondent. Don’t despair. Don’t throw your hands up,” the Democratic governor said in an interview with WWL radio in New Orleans. “We can determine how bad it gets by whether we comply with the social distancing, the ‘stay at home’ order and all the hygiene we’ve been promoting.”

Although the confirmed infection numbers skyrocketed, the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 did not show a similar jump. Louisiana’s death toll from the coronavirus disease grew to 310 in Thursday’s figures, 14% higher than the day before, recording an additional 37 people whose deaths from the virus have been confirmed.

“If there is a place to draw hope here, it is that these new data reveal our COVID-19 related hospitalization and death rates, while still concerningly high, are trending more in line with the national average,” said Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

Hospitals across the state — and particularly in hard-hit New Orleans — have been ramping up their intensive care unit capacity. Ochsner, Louisiana’s largest health system, said it’s working daily to draw more health care workers to staff increased ICU beds and protective equipment, such as masks and gowns, to keep those workers safe.