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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Over 18,000 Louisiana residents have died from COVID-19 since it was first reported in March of 2020, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

“The magnitude of loss due to a virus that has only been with us for 30 months is difficult and painful to grasp, but it is what focuses and drives our continued efforts to preserve human life,” said LDH State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter in a press release. “We have made critical progress in the fight against COVID-19 and are on the right track. Case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the decline. Though we have come far, it is likely new variants will continue to emerge, and there may be a fall or winter surge. The good news is that we know how to protect ourselves and communities, getting vaccinated and boosted, testing when exposed or sick, connecting people who are infected and at higher risk for severe disease with evidence-based treatments like Paxlovid, and utilizing prophylactic treatments like Evusheld in those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.”

LDH says COVID-19 has been the third-leading cause of death in Louisiana since 2020 behind heart disease and cancer.

“Today we mark a tragic and sobering milestone in Louisiana as we recognize the more than 18,000 loved ones from every corner of this state who are no longer with us because of COVID-19. My prayers today and every day are with the grieving families and communities forever altered by this pandemic,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “We have come a long way in combating this virus, and I remain hopeful that we will see fewer deaths in the months and years to come. While we continue to come down from our sixth and longest surge to date, the reality is that this virus is still very much with us. Staying up to date on our vaccines, including taking the new bivalent COVID-19 booster when you are eligible, is the best way to stay safe, protect the progress we have made and ensure there are brighter days ahead.”

LDH reports that over two million people in the state have completed their COVID-19 vaccination series. Updated COVID-19 booster shots are available across Louisiana. LDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone six months and older get vaccinated. Find a vaccination site near you.

568 cases have been reported to the state since Thursday. 143 of those cases are reinfections.