New Congress

Republican members of the House of Representatives from Louisiana, including Mike Johnson, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins and Garret Graves lead the House in a moment of silence for Louisiana Rep-elect Luke Letlow, who died from COVID-19.

If you don’t believe it from mayors or the governor, here’s the data count from The New York Times: “East Baton Rouge Parish is at an extremely high risk level.”

Orleans Parish is at a “very high” risk level. And January has been the worst month for cases in the state’s largest city.

The pandemic is not over, as the Times’ survey of counties across America indicated. The graphical impact of the newspaper’s survey should lead everyone to ponder how to become more, not less, protective of their health.

Then there’s this: “The trend in deaths tends to lag weeks behind the trend in reported cases.”

The national newspaper’s reports are not exactly new news to readers of this newspaper. Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state and local officials have been warning of the problems facing Louisiana’s hospitals during a post-holiday surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Physicians from trusted local hospitals and clinics have pleaded with folks for months to obey the restrictions on activities. The Times’ graphic includes helpful advice about how to be safer from Johns Hopkins University experts, including doctors from that world-famous hospital.

But the fact is that the advice from docs here at Ochsner or Baton Rouge General or Our Lady of Lourdes — any of them — is as good as that from Johns Hopkins these days: Limit gatherings. Wear masks and wash your hands frequently. On and on.

Throughout Louisiana, people can more and more put faces to the statistics. One of Baton Rouge’s familiar faces, last year’s mayoral candidate Steve Carter, died in hospital of coronavirus complications on Tuesday. The list of the prominent in every part of our state should be well-known by now.

If we’ve heard it before, we hope that people will continue to take it to heart. The outliers should not be given the time of day: Let’s face it, the argument that this is a common flu, or some hoax, is nonsensical in light of the nation’s experience.

While a vaccine is on the way, rolling out the doses is complex and will take time, even if variants of the coronavirus do not emerge as threats. Precautions are still necessary.

From Baton Rouge, there was a particularly disturbing incident, at a time when large gatherings are a threat to public health: A Baton Rouge night club was closed temporarily after agents investigating an overcrowding complaint discovered more than 700 people inside the building.

That was above the number for ordinary fire safety rules, much less coronavirus restrictions. But as a deadly plague stalks the land, should the pursuit of profit from the bar be achieved at the cost of lives? In some quarters, clearly, we’ve got a lot to learn.