Between the time this sentence was written and the time this article is published, hundreds more Americans will likely have died from COVID-19. Hundreds or perhaps thousands more people will have been hospitalized, and certainly tens of thousands more will have tested positive for the coronavirus. At this point, making predictions about the pandemic is like riding a barrel over Niagara Falls: We can only guess how it ends, but we do know things are going down.
Here’s another prediction that’s safe to make: The city of New Orleans—and, potentially, all of Louisiana—is going to become the next front in the fight against the pandemic. Even as national attention is justifiably focused on the aggressive outbreak in Washington State and the mounting pressures on New York City’s hospitals, the virus’s advance in Louisiana has shaken local officials and doctors, and the state is already approaching a similar burden of infections and deaths as the crises to the north. There’s good reason to believe that this southern outbreak will be even more difficult to contain, and is perhaps a better harbinger of what’s to come as the pandemic spreads across the country.
The numbers already indicate that Louisiana is a global epicenter of the pandemic. Just over 1 percent of the U.S. population lives in Louisiana. But according to the COVID Tracking Project, 7 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, 7 percent of all hospitalizations, and 3 percent of all positive tests have been in the state. New York has suffered about two deaths per 100,000 residents. Louisiana is at 1.8.