BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said the results of a COVID-19 prevalence study found that 60% of 2,900 adults who tested positive for the coronavirus in the Baton Rouge area in July were asymptomatic.
The findings showed a much higher rate of asymptomatic cases than previous estimates of 20 to 40 percent.
“That makes for a very challenging situation because asymptomatic people are much less likely to be tested, they’re not gonna know that they have it,” said Edwards.
“If you take the number of asymptomatic and positive and extrapolate it to the five-parish area, there were 10,000 people within five parishes who were asymptomatic, but yet carrying the virus and contagious, meaning they’re also spreading it. That’s what makes this particular pandemic so very difficult to manage, and that’s why it’s also important that we follow the data, apply the science, make sure that we’re implementing those recommended mitigation measures that are designed to keep people safe, out of the hospital, and out of the graveyard. It really is that simple.”
The other finding that stood out from the study led by researchers at Ochsner Health in cooperation with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center was that the common symptom among those who tested positive was the loss of taste and smell.
Edwards said the statewide positivity rate was 8.77% as of August 14, “which is better than it has been for quite some time.”
He also said the state is now seeing improvement in every region of the state, with four of the state’s nine regions for the Louisiana Department of Health now below the 10% benchmark and the rest below 12%.
“I do want to remind everybody that our gains have been relatively modest,” said Edwards. “And certainly, they are certainly fragile and they can be lost.”
One of the concerns Edwards reiterated on Thursday is the increased mobility as campuses reopen across the state, which will have people coming into contact with one another more than has been seen since early March when the pandemic first peaked.
39 of the state’s school districts had opened as of Thursday, with the last district expected to open on Friday.
Edwards said earlier in the week that he and state health officials are working with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and following the health department’s daily COVID-19 data in order to decide whether to further lift certain restrictions.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,034 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 28 more deaths Thursday, bringing the cumulative number of cases statewide to 140,821 and total deaths to 4,496.
Edwards also shared good news Tuesday on the state’s efforts to get the federal government to cover more of the share of the cost of emergency response Louisiana National Guard operations under Title 32. The original split was 75% to be paid by the federal government and 25% by the state. Edwards said that split has now been changed to 90/10, which will save the state a significant amount of money.