Louisiana could be a ‘pandemic tinderbox’ in Hurricane Ida’s wake 

Experts are concerned that Hurricane Ida’s impact will worsen the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana’s low-lying parishes, where vaccination rates are low—in some only about a third of the population—and cases have surged to all-time highs.

As USA Today reports, crowded storm shelters, delayed treatments and inundated hospitals put communities at dire risk for more infections. Forty-one percent of Louisiana’s population has been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“This is a pandemic tinderbox,” says pediatrician Irwin Redlener, founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. 

People coping with a weather emergency in crowded shelters or other evacuation sites may forget to mask and social distance, says David Abramson, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “The biggest concern I have, especially among a largely unvaccinated population, is right now people are going to be focused on what they need to do most immediately,” Abramson says. “That question of being in close contact will be almost unavoidable while people are scrambling to attend to all the daily needs that they have.”

Statewide COVID-19 testing sites by the Louisiana National Guard and health department are still closed as of today, a department spokeswoman says. Read the full story.