Louisiana doctor says ‘exponential’ surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations ‘isn’t a controllable thing at this point’

Spilt screen images showing CNN's John Berman and Louisiana Dr. Catherine O'Neal.
Dr. Catherine O’Neal on to talk about the surging coronavirus spread in Louisiana. CNN
  • A Louisiana doctor said the coronavirus was causing an “exponential” surge in hospitalizations.
  • “This isn’t a controllable thing at this point,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal told CNN.
  • The highly transmissible Delta variant is fueling infections in Louisiana and across the country.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Louisiana doctor has painted a grim picture of the spread of the coronavirus in the Bayou State, a spread fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“Right now in the community the spread is exponential, and that exponential spread is because of the Delta variant,” the infectious-disease specialist Dr. Catherine O’Neal told CNN.

“That’s resulting in just an exponential number of patients coming into the hospital,” added O’Neal, the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, a Baton Rouge facility that has more COVID-19 patients than any other hospital in the state.

O’Neal said that as of Wednesday morning there were 119 COVID-19 patients in the hospital – a 50% increase from last week.

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“You don’t get your arms around something like this,” O’Neal said. “This isn’t a controllable thing at this point. This is blocking and tackling. This is every day making a new plan.”

She added: “We don’t have a game plan for three days from now except that we know that three days from now will be far worse.”

The doctor said it felt as if Louisiana was headed toward becoming the way New York City was in March and April of last year, when it was a global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were hit so hard in March and April of 2020, but we never got to that point that we heard stories about in New York, and that was our conversation last night, that it feels like we’re headed that way, and now I could see what they were feeling,” she said.

New York had a COVID-19 hospitalization peak of more than 18,000 in mid-April of last year.

O’Neal also said the COVID-19 patients at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center were “almost wholly unvaccinated.”

We are seeing some breakthrough cases,” she said, adding that “under the age of 50 should be rare in the hospital, but today that accounts for 50% of our COVID patients, and they are all unvaccinated.”

Scott Roe, a local resident who was among COVID-19 patients at that hospital, previously told CBS News that he would rather be ill than get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Here I am recovering, getting out of here finally tomorrow,” Roe had said from his hospital bed last week. “Am I going to get a vaccine? No.”