SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Ochsner Health held a briefing Tuesday afternoon on COVID-19 and the omicron variant, testing recommendations and vaccine boosters as the state braces for another surge.

Ochsner Health Systems, Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention, Katherine Baumgarten, MD said the system expects to see an increase in hospitalizations, but not as high as they saw in the fourth surge over the summer when there were more than 174 patients hospitalized at peak. As of Tuesday, Baumgarten said there were 78.

A week ago, there were 51 patients hospitalized.

As families prepare to gather for holiday celebrations Ochsner Health is imploring the public to take advantage of testing and vaccination resources and to mask up. Especially if they plan to hold or attend indoor or large outdoor gatherings.

The briefing comes after data released Monday by the Louisiana Department of Health showed the number of new cases of the coronavirus illness reached more than 2,300 since Friday — and more than 4,800 over the past week. That’s more than double the amount of new cases from the prior week.

CEO, System Centers of Excellence & Service Lines, Ochsner Health – Dawn Pevey discussed measures being taken within the system to keep it’s workforce healthy and prepared.

She stated that they are “working to find the best care providers while concentrating on retaining their current workforce.”

The rise in COVID cases prompted LDH to revise its recommendations, urging people to resume wearing face coverings at indoor public gatherings, even though Edwards has lifted the state’s mask mandate.

“We don’t need a mask mandate to wear a mask. Its the best advice we can give to keep everyone safe in the holiday season” said Baumgarten.

Louisiana has one of the nation’s lowest immunization rates against the coronavirus. More than 2.3 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to the health department, just under half of Louisiana’s total population. About 661,000 people have gotten booster doses, about 14% of the state’s residents.

Health system officials note that they are seeing more people in their vaccination clinics but it is not nearly enough to decrease the spread of the virus.