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Analysis: COVID-19 cases, testing up in June; hospitalizations, deaths down

As Gov. John Bel Edwards prepared Monday to announce whether Louisiana will enter “Phase Three” of the state’s re-opening plan, an analysis of COVID-19 statistics shows that Louisiana appears to be making strong progress against the pandemic.

Edwards was expected to say at a 2:30 p.m. press conference Monday if the state will move to Phase Three on Friday, when the current Phase Two order expires.

Phase Three would essentially be a return to near-normalcy, with fewer restrictions on businesses and services. Currently under Phase Two, most businesses are limited to 50-percent capacity.

Under Phase Three, the primary focus is placed on the identification and isolation of any new infections.

A comparison of May’s statistics with June’s statistics through Monday shows some promising signs. The listed averages are based on the number of reportable days in the month, which was not always the same as the actual calendar days (for example, there were no statistics reported on June 18).

It is true that the number of cases appears to be increasing. There were 11,915 new cases reported in May, or an average of 384.4 new cases per day. So far in June, there has been 9,920 new cases reported, or an average of 472.4 per day.

That means that June has seen an average of 88 more cases reported per day, or an increase of 22.9 percent compared to May.

However, some of the increase in positive cases could be due to an additional increase in testing. In May, there were 213,800 COVID-19 tests reported, or an average of 7,127 per day — there were only 30 reportable days in May for testing statistics. In June so far, there has been 236,959 tests, or an average of 11,284 per reportable day.

That means that June has seen an average of 4,157 more tests reported per day, or an increase of 58.3 percent compared to May.

Essentially, although both cases and testing are going up, the number of cases is rising at a far slower rate than the number of tests. This is also confirmed by looking at the average rate of positive results — in May the average rate of positive test results was 5.63 percent, and in June the average so far is 5.15 percent.

While the increase in raw number of cases may be concerning, other statistics are showing significant declines month to month.

In May, the average number of hospitalized patients per day was 1,110.4, and the average number of patients on ventilators was 139.9. In June so far, those same averages are 584.7 hospitalizations and 76.5 ventilators in use.

In addition, the state is reporting that a large number of the reported cases so far have been resolved as “presumed recovered” patients.

As of its Sunday update, Louisiana had reported 39,792 presumed recovered cases. On Monday, the state had reported a total of 50,239 cases — meaning that 79.2 percent of those patients have recovered.