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Louisiana has been keeping an eye on worldwide trends with COVID-19 in an attempt to predict what will happen for Mardi Gras season. Just yesterday, Ochsner Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hart shared optimism that the state will be on the other side of the current curve when Mardi Gras celebrations hit high gear in the state. He was also optimistic that the state will gain more overall protection against COVID because of the Omicron wave.

After months of push to get studies on natural immunity conducted in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a study that shows natural immunity from prior COVID infection offers stronger protection than vaccines. The study showed the best protection is seen in people who were vaccinated and then had a breakthrough case of COVID. The second best protection was natural immunity, followed by vaccination. This is likely a big part of the reason that people expect society to be in a better spot after this latest COVID wave.

According to data provided by the CDC, then tracked by the Yale School of Public Health, Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Stanford Medicine, the state of Louisiana has likely seen more than 82% of the total population already infected by COVID-19. Their numbers show that as of June 2021 that number was hovering around 45%.

The biggest trend that the trio of high level schools is the Effective Reproduction rate of COVID-19. They measure this model for the entire United States, but also track it across individual states. The Effective Reproduction rate, or Rt ,represents how fast the virus is spreading...or isn't spreading. Here's how the model explains the metric:

"Rt is the average number of people who will become infected by a person infected at time t. If it’s above 1.0, COVID-19 cases will increase in the near future. If it’s below 1.0, COVID-19 cases will decrease in the near future."

The state of Louisiana saw an Rt over 1.0 between December 3rd, 2021 and January 10th, 2022. Since the 10th, the number has rapidly declined every day in the model. Meaning the rate of spread has been rapidly declining since the 10th. Their latest information in the model, January 24th, shows a lower Effective Reproduction rate for Louisiana than any point in the last 8 months. That may illustrate what doctors like Ochsner's Dr. Hart has described.

With the CDC data on natural immunity, and the models that show over 80% of Louisiana residents have likely been infected by COVID, there is now a massive lack of susceptible population in the state. That means there are less people who can get sick.

Earlier this month, there were points where cities in Louisiana were seeing daily positivity rates between 30% and 45%. That means 3-4 of every 10 people were actively infected with COVID. After a few days, that would mean another 3-4 people in that same group of 10 people would have also recently experienced COVID. So in just a few days, the total amount of people out of a group of 10 who could get COVID would be 2-4 people. Now, if the state has already seen 75% of the state's population with protection from prior infection, a percentage of the remaining individuals in the group of 10 are protected. If a percentage of that group of 10 have vaccines that actually work against infection, then less of the group could get it. So eventually, no one in the group of 10 could become infected by COVID, and the spread slows to a stop.

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