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FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, medical transporter Adrian Parrilla moves a patient into a COVID-19 unit at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif. irtually every state is reporting surges in cases and deaths. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has drastically slashed daily cases and deaths and allowed the country to emerge from the gloom. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) ORG XMIT: VOD205

People dying from coronavirus in the latest surge tend to be younger than those who succumbed during the early days of the pandemic, according to new data from the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner.

The 47 COVID people who died between July 28 and Aug. 9 in Baton Rouge were on average 8.5 years younger than the 47 who died during the pandemic’s infancy in 2020.

Some medical professionals think the shift reflects vaccination trends.

“It’s speculative, but I think I’m correct in (saying) that the people who got vaccinated first and most were all age 70 and above, then 65 and above, and then 60 and above,” said Dan Godbee, medical director for East Baton Rouge Parish EMS. “It could very well be that the vaccinated population in the senior citizen age group may be higher than everybody else, so they’re doing a lot better.”

Since vaccines for the virus became widely available earlier this year, medical experts and governments have pushed for widespread immunization to prevent additional surges — like the one now gripping the state. 

With the present surge, Louisiana is witnessing numbers comparable to those at the beginning of the pandemic. It also continues to see a persistent overrepresentation of infections among Black people. But the similarities pretty much end there.

The latest batch of statistics shows the racial makeup of the pandemic’s victims becoming increasingly White.

According to the coroner’s office, the percentage of White patients who died from COVID-19 in the last two weeks has soared by nearly 23 percentage points compared to the start of the pandemic. Black patients, meanwhile, saw a 17 percent point decrease in deaths.

Baton Rouge General sees a similar trend in hospitalizations.

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This week, BRG reported a 35 percent increase in hospitalizations among Black patients from 2020 to 2021, and a nearly 140 percent increase among White patients in the same timeframe.

There could be a number of reasons for this turn, Tulane University epidemiology professor Susan Hassig said.

For one thing, she noted, people of color were overrepresented in lines of work deemed essential.

“They were in jobs that put them at high risk of exposure and a lot of them got sick and a lot died,” Hassig said.

Then there’s the politics. 

Surveys have shown that many vaccine holdouts are White, conservative, evangelical Christian or some mix of the three. 

Regardless of who is getting sick, Hassig said, it’s crucial for communities to stay vigilant and heed expert advice. 

“Masking up and getting vaccinated will help us stop this pandemic,” she said. “If the population can’t bring the numbers down, other steps are going to need to be taken.”

Because to continue on this trajectory and at this pace, she added, would be disastrous.

“We cannot sustain this,” she said. “Hospitals cannot sustain this. If people don’t want to lose access to the things they like to do, then they might want to engage more in the things we have available to us now to slow this pandemic.”


EMAIL ELYSE CARMOSINO AT ECARMOSINO@THEADVOCATE.COM OR FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER, @ELYSECARMOSINO.