St. Tammany Health System data reveal that COVID hospitalizations rise at the health system’s Covington hospital after major holidays.
“We’ve seen it happen every holiday since the COVID-19 pandemic began: When people gather with others who aren’t in their household group, coronavirus infections spike,” said Mike Hill, MD, infectious disease specialist at St. Tammany Health System. “And when infections spike, hospitalizations quickly follow suit.”
STHS confirmed its first COVID case March 13, 2020. Exactly one month later, 44 patients were in COVID care. After statewide lockdown reduced those numbers, STHS achieved a low of two COVID-positive inpatients June 2.
Numbers stayed relatively low for the next few weeks then rose after July 4. Media coverage from the time suggests “lockdown fatigue” led Northshore residents to gather for fireworks, barbecues and other large social gatherings. Within two weeks (the typical time for coronavirus symptoms to present) STHS’s COVID inpatient count more than doubled from 14 to 29 cases.
Between Halloween Oct. 31 and Thanksgiving Nov. 26, cases jumped from 12 to 25 cases. Two weeks after Thanksgiving, they jumped again to 42. Within two weeks of Christmas, STHS’s inpatient count reached 62, and two weeks after New Year’s Day, 66 inpatients were in COVID care, which stands as the hospital’s highest COVID inpatient census since the disease was first found in the Northshore population.
“Our advice is simple this Mardi Gras: Celebrate safely,” Hill said. “Stay home or, if you’re going out to look at house floats, have only your household group in your vehicle. With vaccine distribution picking up, the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as ever. Now’s not the time to let down our guard.”