Cavanaugh: Return of mask mandate not unexpected

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that another temporary statewide mask mandate would take effect Wednesday and extend through at least Sept. 1 for indoor spaces. He said the effort, which applies to residents 5 and older, is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, particularly the highly-contagious Delta variant.

Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, medical director for the Region 5 Office of Public Health, said the mask mandate isn’t surprising, given the number of positive COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations in Louisiana.

“I sort of expected this,” she said. “We know masks are effective. We have to use all the tools that we have right now.”

None of the parishes in Region 5, which includes Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard, Allen and Jeff Davis, are above 30 percent fully vaccinated, Cavanaugh said.

“I’m very concerned about Delta, and these numbers aren’t high enough to give us the herd immunity so many people wish we had,” she said. “It’s not high enough to protect us from having additional spikes like we’re seeing now. Vaccination is really the only way right now for us to get out of this situation that nobody likes.”

As of Sunday, 95 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized in Region 5. Cavanaugh said this isn’t far from the winter of 2020, which saw 100 people hospitalized during the third surge of the virus.

The most recent hospitalization numbers haven’t reached the severe spike that occurred around July 2020, when there were 160 people hospitalized within Region 5, Cavanaugh said. During that time, federal support was provided, including disaster medical teams sent to three area hospitals.

Having hospitals and emergency rooms overwhelmed with COVID-19 positive patients has a ripple effect, Cavanaugh said. Those with chronic diseases are not likely receiving the medical care they normally would, she said.

As of Monday, 28.8 percent of Calcasieu Parish residents are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 — the highest in Region 5, Cavanaugh said. Looking at other parishes, the numbers are 26.63 percent for Jeff Davis, 23.69 percent for Cameron, 22.46 percent for Beauregard, and 19.39 percent for Allen. Vaccination numbers are released every Monday and Thursday. They are based on 2018 census data, which may slightly skew the numbers because of population shifts after Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Data over the last two weeks suggests that more residents have received their first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, Cavanaugh said. Because there is a four-week window between the first and second vaccine shots, she said the vaccination numbers are expected to trend upward within the next two weeks.

Cavanaugh said there is a growing interest of people wanting to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the Delta variant.

“I do believe people are starting to recognize the seriousness of the situation we’re in,” she said. “With Delta and how fast it has spread, I think people have made the decision that the benefit of the vaccine is worth it.”

The Louisiana Department of Health reported that from July 15-21, those not fully vaccinated accounted for 90 percent of COVID-19 cases statewide. Meanwhile, 85 percent of COVID-19 related deaths from that time frame were not vaccinated, and 90 percent of hospitalizations were not vaccinated, she said.

Cavanaugh said there are roughly 1,400 locations throughout Louisiana providing COVID-19 vaccines, including pharmacies and hospitals. For Region 5, the site that was at the Lake Charles Civic Center moved to the Calcasieu Parish Health Unit, 3236 Kirkman St. Vaccines are available from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Other locations:

Beauregard Parish Health Unit, 216 Evangeline St. Vaccines are available 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Jeff Davis Parish Health Unit, 403 Baker St.. Vaccines are available 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

Allen Parish Health Unit, 145 Hospital Drive. Vaccinations every Thursday. Call 318-335-1147 for availability.

The health unit in Cameron Parish remains damaged from Hurricane Laura, but there are hospitals within the parish providing vaccines, Cavanaugh said.

To find the nearest locations providing COVID-19 vaccines, call

211. The service can also arrange to administer vaccines to homebound residents.

For more information, call the Louisiana Department of Health vaccine hotline at 855-453-0774.