As officials try to curb the spread of coronavirus in the hotspot of Southeastern Louisiana, patients are dying at an alarmingly high rate, and a number of factors—including resource allocation, preexisting conditions and limited access to testing—may be at play.
- As of Thursday, a staggering 97% of Louisiana coronavirus patients who died had preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart problems, Reuters reported.
- “We have more than our fair share of people who have the comorbidities that make them especially vulnerable,” said Governor John Bel Edwards of the outbreak in Louisiana, where rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes exceed the national average.
- As the Atlantic notes, these preexisting health conditions—exacerbated by structural issues related to race and poverty—may also help explain why, in Louisiana, more people under age 70 are succumbing to COVID-19 than in other regions.
- Pre-existing conditions alone, however, likely do not explain the high fatality rate, and as Louisiana’s public health chief Alex Billioux told the Wall Street Journal, that number may soon fall as more people get diagnosed, thanks to an increase in commercial testing.
- It’s also important to keep in mind that statistics related to coronavirus largely hinge on incomplete information, and factors that inform Louisiana’s death toll are likely interdependent.
Big number: 409. That’s the number of deaths in Louisiana as of Saturday. Louisiana has also conducted 58,498 tests, including both state and commercial administrations, which have yielded 12,496 positive cases.
Crucial quote: “It’s an easy scapegoat to say, oh, Louisiana is doing poorly on deaths per hospitalization because this is an obese population, they are Southerners, they are ill,” Tulane health economist Engy Ziedan told the Wall Street Journal, noting that preexisting health concerns are only part of the problem.