Louisiana hospitals prepare for surge of COVID-19 patients

With only 36% of the population fully vaccinated, the Pelican State has one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19

The latest surge of coronavirus cases is hitting southern states especially hard. This week, Louisiana reported its highest single-day spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic started. 

"To see this current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming increasingly scary," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.

Many hospitals in the state have once again put a hold on non-emergency surgeries. Top doctors say they can't spare the beds. 

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"It's unbelievable. It's just faster and [patients are] so much more sick and younger than we're seen before," said Dr. Catherine O'Neal, the chief medical director at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, the largest private hospital in Baton Rouge. 

"The tempo of this is so fast, we just don't have that many people in reserve," O'Neal said.

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Two weeks ago, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center had 27 COVID-19 patients. This week, there are more than 100. 

"It's a monster," O'Neal said. "I think we'll reach too much in the next couple of days. Absolutely." 

New Orleans was once an epicenter for the virus, and cases are climbing there once again. 

"I think the key for people to know is we're seeing it in the unvaccinated population," Dr. Jeffrey Elder told Fox News. "Ninety percent of patients in our hospital are unvaccinated."

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Elder is the director of emergency management for LCMC Health. The nonprofit health system has eight hospitals across the New Orleans area. 

"Across our hospitals, we are up to over 120 patients," Elder said. 

Elder says the answer is simple: "If you want to stay out of the hospital, get vaccinated." 

But the vaccination rate in Louisiana sits at 36%, which is just not enough to stop this spread. 

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Both doctors say sick COVID-19 patients have asked for the vaccine at the hospital.

"Many have expressed regret," O'Neal said. "Unfortunately now, they'll have to wait to get the vaccine until they recover."