Louisiana and Tangipahoa Parish are in the midst of a third surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said this week. They urged the public to take precautions, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday beginning for many.

Gov. John Bel Edwards stopped short of issuing new restrictions to control the coronavirus. He said the current rules are adequate if followed, but the effort being made in Louisiana is inadequate to the task.

“I’m asking the people of Louisiana to rise to the challenge,” he said Thursday.

Dr. Robert Peltier, chief medical officer for North Oaks Hospital, in a 96.5 FM radio interview Friday with Johnny Chauvin, affirmed the governor’s plea.

“Overall, we’ve done a fantastic job,” Dr. Peltier said of Louisiana’s efforts in the past nine months. “We flattened the curve, but right now we’re moving in wrong direction. Maybe we all pushed the envelope a little too much.”

The weekly report issued Wednesday by the state health department showed a 40 percent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Tangpahoa Parish, he said. Whereas a week ago the hospital had eight COVID-19 patients, the number had risen to 27 by Friday.

Dr. Peltier himself was at home quarantining “to be on the safe side,” he said, but he had been in conferences this week with Gov. Edwards and other health officials from around the state, all of whom warned about the surge.

A key point the governor made, Dr. Peltier said, is everyone needs to think of themselves as part of the community’s health care team.

“What you do impacts the community’s health care,” he said, urging the public to socially distance, wear masks, stay at home and use good hygiene. “We’re not overdoing it.”

“Regardless of how you feel about it, COVID puts people in the hospital and that takes up resources,” he said. “Whether you believe COVID is an issue or not, you want those beds free for other injuries and needs... If it keeps on the up slope, we will have serious difficulties taking care of COVID and non-COVID patients at the hospital.”

The Center Square news agency noted Friday that Louisiana was among the world leaders in COVID-19 infections during the early days of the pandemic this spring. A second wave in June and July prompted Edwards to issue a statewide mask mandate.

Now, according to this week’s White House report, Louisiana had 172 new cases per 100,000 residents, which is below the national average of 294 cases but above the 99 new cases per 100,000 residents the state had the previous week.

“Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies,” the White House coronavirus task force said of Louisiana.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and to limit gatherings to their immediate households. Holding large gatherings at Thanksgiving could lead to family members not being around to celebrate Christmas, Edwards said.

“This is the beginning of our third surge,” Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health said. “People’s mindset needs to change.”

Current mitigation rules limit crowd sizes and the amount of people allowed inside businesses. Barrooms in parishes with high rates of COVID-19 are supposed to be closed for on-premise service. Face coverings are supposed to be worn in public places where people are in close proximity to others who are not part of their households.

Edwards said vaccines for COVID-19 are the “light at the end of the tunnel” and might be available for frontline health care workers before the end of the year. Nursing home residents and others who live in congregant settings would be next in line.

Louisiana officials on Thursday reported 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 6,199. There were 929 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, an increase of 253 this week but still short of the nearly 2,000 hospitalizations reported at the height of the pandemic.

Louisiana has reported more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and more than 9,000 probable cases. Officials believe almost 186,000 COVID-19 patients have recovered.

David Jacobs with The Center Square reported from Baton Rouge. Daily Star Editor Lil Mirando contributed to this report from Hammond.

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