In a heartening bit of news for a recovering America, on Monday New Orleans posted its first day without COVID deaths since the pandemic started. On Tuesday, however, the city once again recorded deaths due to the novel virus.
Orleans Parish, where New Orleans is located, recorded four new deaths Tuesday.
At present, it appears as though the virus peaked in Louisiana in early April. Since then, it has been seeing declining case numbers and declining new deaths from the virus.
This has led many in the region to become optimistic that the worst of the virus could be behind them. In spite of this data, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15.
The Southeast has seen notably fewer cases and deaths from the COVID pandemic. Louisiana has been no different, posting only 1,758 deaths from the virus so far. However, as to be expected, those deaths have been concentrated in the most populous region of the state: Orleans Parish.
On top of being populous, New Orleans is also afflicted by income inequality. Many of the poorest residents of the city have inadequate access to healthcare. Poor residents tend to have preexisting medical conditions that aren’t present in their wealthier neighbors.
Notably, this inequality is even more pronounced among black neighborhoods, with the virus disproportionately infecting and killing African Americans.
The Southeast hasn’t exactly avoided COVID, but it has seen significantly fewer deaths than modeling expected in March. The reasons for this aren’t exactly known, but there are theories. Due to the novel nature of the virus, testing capacity wasn’t what it could have been in the region. As such, many people infected with COVID likely went undiagnosed.
There has been speculation that the region may have been affected by the virus much earlier than was being initially reported. Some studies have suggested the virus could have been present in the region as early as January or February. This, paired with a general lack of testing, could have caused the virus to spread unseen through the population widely before COVID was being screened for.
If this is the case, it is possible that many in the region have already built up antibodies for the virus. However, it is unknown how effective antibodies are at preventing further COVID-19 infection. In some studies from Wuhan, convalescent patients didn’t even have antibodies present after surviving the disease. Currently, we have far more questions than answers regarding COVID.