Jeff Asher: Amid national resurgence of coronavirus, Louisiana can be proud of ‘fragile’ progress | Coronavirus

In my last column, I made what I might call the “cautiously pessimistic” forecast for COVID-19 in Louisiana over the next few weeks/months. But, as I said in that piece, “the evidence is not particularly strong just yet, meaning there is plenty of uncertainty about whether we are actually seeing increasing infections, where they’re occurring, and how bad things could get.”

Today let’s look at the relatively optimistic present, where things in Louisiana are about as good as they have been — while still being in a deadly global pandemic — since early March.

In much of America right now, there is ample evidence that things are getting bad. There were nearly 70,000 new cases reported nationally on Oct. 16, the most since July, and cases are rising faster than tests nationally.

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Wisconsin reported over 4,000 new cases on Oct. 16 with 28% of tests coming back positive, indicating that the number of infections is significantly higher than even that incredible number of known new cases. The Dakotas are seeing some of the highest rates of new cases in the country.

It is not just the U.S. either. Countries across Europe are implementing new restrictions in the face of a new surge.

But so far, Louisiana has been spared the COVID spike that is gripping much of the country.

So far.

A partial explanation may be that Louisiana was arguably the only state in the country to have an initial wave in March and a second wave in June/July. Louisiana’s re-opening has also been cautious and staggered, which has helped to prevent outbreaks over a month after the state entered Phase 3.

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Fewer than 5% of tests reported statewide have come back positive on 13 of the first 14 days of October where data was reported. The data has been even better in Orleans Parish, where tests have come back positive at a rate of 2.5% or less on all 14 days.

Florida, by contrast, fully re-opened restaurants, bars, and gyms, among other businesses, on Sept. 28 despite still logging around 100 deaths per day and a positivity rate of over 10%, and the state is already seeing increasing cases and a climbing positive test rate.

Meanwhile, the evidence of increasing COVID in Louisiana that I wrote about last time has not really panned out. COVID-related hospitalizations are up slightly from where they were in early October, but they have been relatively steady for much of the last three weeks. And Google searches for COVID symptoms looked like they were increasing in early October, but that trend seems less clear now than it did a week or two ago.

The progress that Louisiana has made is real, but it is also fragile.

Data from Tulane and LSU

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