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Time Magazine 20th September 2021 Dual Issue with hurricane Ida ThreaTening massive flooding, high winds, and power outages on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, administrators at Marrero Healthcare Center, located in Lafourche Parish just northeast of where the Category 4 storm would soon make landfall, decided on Aug. 26 that it was time to leave. Two days of hurried packing later, at noon, dozens of residents from the nursing and rehabilitation center piled onto two school buses for a 4 hr. 40 min. ride inland; 21 who are bedbound were transported in a large emergency vehicle, in bunks stacked three high. Another bus transported medical supplies and equipment as well as food for the trip. For part of the caravan, the journey ultimately took up to seven hours as thousands of others likewise fled the southeastern coast, packing the highways leading inland. “It’s so hard on the elderly folks, many of them, just to travel for an hour or two in a car. But to travel on a stretcher for six hours?” says Elizabeth Dowden, nursing-home director for Many Healthcare North, the residents’ new temporary home. Time Magazine 20th September 2021 Dual Issue“That’s a strong generation. Very little complaints and they did well.” How well the rest of the local medical ecosystem will fare is a larger question. Any natural disaster strains health resources, and Louisiana’s medical community braced for the inevitable surge in emergency-room visits as people injured in the storm, or those seeking medical care they couldn’t get during the peak of the crisis, rushed to hospitals. But this time, health care workers were also wary of an additional burden. With only 41% of Louisiana residents vaccinated against COVID-19, the Delta variant has been spreading as quickly as Ida’s floodwaters; weeks before the storm struck, the state recorded its highest daily number of new cases since the pandemic began. Since August, about 15% of daily COVID-19 tests in the state have come up positive on average, and 88% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied, about half of them by COVID-19 patients. Ida didn’t change any of those realities but only temporarily put them out of mind as more urgent needs took precedence—and in a state familiar with just how dire post-hurricane health care can get, COVID-19 raised the stakes even more.


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