“The fact that I’m here now, I’m furious with myself,” she told CNN between two deep, deliberate breaths. “Because I was not vaccinated. “
Matzen, 44, finds himself in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the Notre-Dame du Lac Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. She is receiving oxygen treatment and hopes to stay well enough to avoid connecting to a ventilator.
The state has the highest 7-day average of new cases per capita in the country, at 77 reported cases per 100,000 population each day over the past week, according to CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University .
Kanter attributed the outbreak to a “perfect storm” of factors, including the Delta variant, which is said to be more transmissible, and “unacceptably low vaccine coverage.”
Louisiana’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the country, with just 37% of residents fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the fifth lowest in the country, and Louisiana is one of six states that have less than 38% of residents fully immunized.
The state’s largest healthcare system, Ochsner, has seen a 700% increase in Covid-19 patients in the past month and a 75% increase in the past week, officials said at a conference press release Wednesday.
And the vast majority of those patients – 88%, according to Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas – are not vaccinated.
“It hits unvaccinated people disproportionately,” Thomas said. “These are the people we see in a very large majority coming to the hospital. ”
Matzen told CNN she wasn’t opposed to the vaccination – she just didn’t take the time. Whenever she planned to be vaccinated, “something came up,” she said.
“I have this feeling… if I were vaccinated I wouldn’t be hospitalized,” said Matzen.
Some Covid-19 patients deny the virus is real
Louisiana is one of two states, along with Arkansas, where every county – or parish, as jurisdictions are known in Louisiana – has “high” levels of community transmission of Covid-19, according to CDC data.
This means that each parish has either 100 or more cases per 100,000 population, or a test positive rate of 10% or more.
Hospitalizations in Louisiana are also skyrocketing, with 1,524 people hospitalized with Covid-19 across the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. As of July 1, 259 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized.
The outbreak is once again forcing hospitals to prioritize the treatment of Covid-19 patients over others.
Returning to the first days of the pandemic, the Notre-Dame-du-Lac regional medical center on Monday interrupted the programming of non-urgent surgical interventions that would require an hospital bed.
The hospital’s problem is not lack of space, said chief medical officer Dr Catherine O’Neal. Our Lady of Lake is the state’s largest regional medical center, she said. But he doesn’t have the staff to treat everyone.
Patients are arriving in waves, O’Neal told CNN, forcing the hospital to call in reservists and shut down other services.
“The load is becoming overwhelming,” she said.
There were 140 Covid-19 patients in Notre-Dame du Lac on Thursday, 30 of whom had been admitted in the past 24 hours – the highest number since the start of the pandemic, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Almost 50% of patients are under 50 years old. Fifty patients are in intensive care, and 11 of them are children.
Morgan Babin, a registered nurse who has worked in the hospital’s Covid-19 intensive care unit since March 2020, told CNN the intensive care unit’s population is growing rapidly with younger and sicker patients .
“They were my age, the age of my colleagues – 30, 40,” she said. “It scared me for my own health as well as for my community. ”
Yet some continue to deny that Covid-19 is real, falling prey to widespread disinformation. And Babin has patients who insist their positive diagnosis for Covid is a lie.
“I have patients who have denied having Covid until intubation,” she said. “They think they have a cold, and they think we are lying to them. “
Nowhere is safe said the doctor
O’Neal said the hospital assumes all cases now consist of the Delta variant, and that the only place people are safe from the virus is at home, she said. Even outside, “there is no longer a safe,” she said.
“If you interact in this community you should be vaccinated and you should wear a mask because we are inundated with Covid,” she said.
Another Notre-Dame du Lac patient, Carsyn Baker, said she believed she contracted the virus when she visited her friend’s home for her birthday, sitting on a screened porch.
“I closed my eyes and felt like I couldn’t breathe,” said Baker, 21. “Something in my body would say to me, like ‘Hey, you gotta breathe, like, wake up.’ ”
Baker has kidney disease, she said, and her doctor has advised her against getting the vaccine at this time.
“It’s kinda sucks because people like me with autoimmune disease, you really can’t go anywhere now, because everyone gets sick and no matter what you do,” Baker said. .
Ronnie Smith, another patient, was considering getting the vaccine. But he got Covid-19 instead. Smith, 47, believes he caught the virus from a friend at an outdoor barbecue.
“Two days after the event, I fell to the ground and couldn’t get up,” he said.
In a statement this week, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards pleaded for eligible people to get vaccinated, saying all three were “safe and effective” and the best tools available to end the pandemic.
“For anyone wondering when this will end, the answer is simple: when we decide to do what it takes to end it,” the governor said.
When asked what she would say to the people standing on the fence about the vaccine, Matzen replied, “Jump. Course. Bring your family with you, go to the clinics. There is no more excuse. It’s real. “
“I just don’t want anyone else to end up like me,” said Matzen, “especially when the vaccine is so easy to get now. ”