COVID-19 surge: Louisiana hospital forced to halt nonemergency surgeries

As cases continue to soar throughout the United States among mostly unvaccinated people, one hospital in Louisiana has been forced to temporarily discontinue nonemergency surgeries amid a steadily increasing influx of COVID-19 patients. 

Baton Rouge-based Our Lady of the Lake said it will pause scheduling new nonurgent surgeries that require an inpatient bed for at least three weeks after admitting 25 new COVID-19 patients within the last 24 hours. 

Louisiana has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation, and it is worsening the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. 

Statewide, the health department said Monday the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reached 1,221. That’s more than double the number 10 days ago. 

COVID ICU patient

FILE - A clinician cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

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The country is in an "unnecessary predicament" of soaring COVID-19 cases fueled by unvaccinated Americans and the virulent delta variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday. 

"We’re going in the wrong direction," said Fauci, describing himself as "very frustrated." 

He said recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is "under active consideration" by the government’s leading public health officials. Also, booster shots may be suggested for people with suppressed immune systems who have been vaccinated, Fauci said. 

Fauci noted that some local jurisdictions where infection rates are surging, such as Los Angeles County, are already calling on individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. Fauci said those local rules are compatible with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that the vaccinated do not need to wear masks in public. 

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More than 163 million people, or 49% of the total U.S. population, are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Of those eligible for the vaccine, aged 12 and over, the figure rises to 57%. 

"This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated," Fauci said. 

Fauci also praised Republicans, including Govs. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, and the second-ranking House leader, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, for encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated. Their states have among the lowest vaccination rates in the country. 

"What I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated," Fauci said. 

Catherine Park contributed to this report.