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ONE YEAR LATER: Evaluating the impact of COVID-19 in Central Louisiana

On March 22, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a ‘Stay at Home’ order for the entire state, one of the first moves in an unprecedented year for Louisianans
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 1:51 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 2:06 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - One year ago, Louisiana saw a major change when Governor John Bel Edwards issued a ‘Stay at Home’ order for the state. To mark a year since that monumental move, KALB is reflecting on the past 365 days during the pandemic and where Central Louisiana stands now in its fight against COVID-19.

HOSPITALIZATION AND VENTILATOR USAGE

Source: Louisiana Department of Health
Source: Louisiana Department of Health(Louisiana Department of Health)

When looking at how hospital numbers compare from the beginning of the pandemic to now, progress has been made. In this graph from the Louisiana Department of Health, the green line represents the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Louisiana, while the yellow line is the number on ventilators.

In April of 2020, 571 people were on ventilators, the highest number during the COVID-19 outbreak. Two months ago in January, the number of hospitalized hit over 2,000 for the first time. Compare that to right now, where 399 people are hospitalized with 68 of those on ventilators. A sign of progress, with numbers continuing to go down.

PERCENT POSITIVE AND COVID-19 TEST VOLUME

Source: Louisiana Department of Health
Source: Louisiana Department of Health(Louisiana Department of Health)

When it comes to reopening and getting things back to normal amid the pandemic, government officials have been keeping an eye on the percent of COVID-19 tests that come back positive. In this graph from the Louisiana Department of Health, the blue bars at the bottom represent the percent of tests coming back positive, while the yellow line is the amount of tests being given.

Right when Governor John Bel Edwards’ ‘Stay at Home’ order was put in place, Louisiana’s percent positive was sitting at 32.2 percent. Compare that to right now, where the latest percent positive amount was 2.9 percent.

VACCINE NUMBERS

Since COVID-19 vaccines began to rollout in January, 1,622,640 doses have been administered in Louisiana. 611,494 people in the state have completed their vaccine series, with 50,825 of those in Central Louisiana. 9.94 percent of Region XI is now fully vaccinated.

To find out if you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and how to register to receive one, click here.

DR. HOLCOMBE REFLECTS

Dr. David Holcombe has been leading the crusade against COVID-19 in Central Louisiana as the LDH Medical Director for Region XI.

“We went from COVID right into four hurricanes, 76 days at the shelter. This has been a real stress test,” said Dr. Holcombe.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming widely available in Louisiana and across the United States, Dr. Holcombe shared that the one lesson he hopes we’ve learned from this crisis is to be better prepared for the future.

“I think there’ll be an increased awareness to the susceptibility of natural disasters whether they’re biological or whether they’re physical and that would be a good thing.”

As for what life may look like another year from now, Dr. Holcombe predicts we’ll have an annual COVID vaccine available similar to the flu shot, and that mask wearing will begin to be a distant memory as we get back to normal. Not the new normal, but the way things used to be. “I think we’re really going to see some enormous progress through the summer and through the fall and so I’m hoping already by next year things will be very much back to normal.”

IMPACT ON LOCAL BUSINESSES

COVID-19 has hit not only people hard, but their livelihoods, as well. It’s been a whirlwind of regulations, changing rules and budgets the past year, but, even a year later, things still aren’t back to normal.

The Hotel Bentley in Alexandria has stood the test of time, but the past year has been one for the history books.

“Not completely back to normal, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel for sure,” said Scott Laliberte, Chief Operating Officer for Jenkin’s Properties. “The restaurant industry has suffered the most.”Its been a tough go for Laliberte. He not only manages the hotel, but also the Mirror Room Lounge, and two restaurants, The Bentley Room and Diamond Grill.”The general public still has to understand that we are still dealing with some challenges,” said Laliberte.A lot of changing rules and regulations have made things challenging. They even had to turn the bar into a restaurant.”Of course you have to order food when you are down there but it gave us the option to open that specific bar,” said Laliberte.Stats from LSUA show 30 percent less businesses were open at the end of 2020 compared to the start of 2020 in Rapides Parish.

“The pandemic disproportionately impacted small businesses,” said Deborah Randolph, President of the Cenla Chamber of Commerce. “Some small businesses actually did really well and we saw some expansions occur. But there were others that could not hold on and closed their doors, that’s extremely unfortunate.”But Randolph also said there is still silver lining.

“We are optimistic because Louisiana was one of the southern states that had a record number of new business formations in the year 2020. Some were formed out of necessity, losing a job and thinking of something else to do,” said Randolph.

LSUA stats also show Alexandria had the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

Laliberte said they’ve been fortunate.”We are recovering really well,” said Laliberte. “All of our properties are doing a great job.”And with restrictions easing, things could be trending up.”Louisiana is a very resilient state. We are known for hospitality. I don’t see any problems, I think in about a year or so we will be right back if not better than we were before covid,” said Laliberte.

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