Ochsner Health Findings on a local Covid 19 Study:



BATON ROUGE – Ochsner Health announced on Thursday key findings from a COVID-19 Prevalence Study conducted in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Livingston and West Baton Rouge Parishes between July 15-31. The study was in partnership with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and funded by the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and The Humana Foundation, with additional support from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and Healthy Blue.

Led by Ochsner Principal Investigator Amy Feehan, PhD, in cooperation with Pennington Biomedical, data from the study was analyzed to determine how widespread the virus is, and which populations have been most impacted. Over 2,100 volunteers received free COVID-19 PCR testing and antibody testing representing a sample of Greater Baton Rouge residents.

Key Facts & Findings:

  • 6.6% of Greater Baton Rouge residents (18+) have been infected with COVID-19.
    • 3.0% tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) but not antibodies, indicating that they are likely infectious. Projected to the larger population, we estimate more than 16,000 residents had an active infection at the time of testing.
    • More than 60% of those with an active infection had no symptoms at the time of the test (projected 10,000 residents).
    • 3.6% tested positive for antibodies, meaning they were recovering from the disease or had completely recovered.  Projected to the larger population, we estimate 19,843 residents with antibodies.
    • The state-reported cases for this region (17,093, or 3.1%, as of August 2nd) are in addition to this study as people with previous positive tests were not allowed to participate.  Together, this region shows a 9.7% prevalence (6.6% + 3.1%) as of August 2, 2020.
  • Active COVID-19 infections were most prominent in West Baton Rouge (5.3%) and Livingston (4.2%) Parishes.
    • Active infection rates were lower in East Baton Rouge (2.8%) and Ascension (1.9%) Parishes.
  • Black residents had the highest rate of past infection (positive antibodies), while Hispanic residents had higher rates of active infection.
    • Antibodies were found in 7.5% of Black residents, 1.8% of White residents and 1.6% of Hispanic residents.
    • Active COVID-19 infections were found in 10.1% of Hispanic residents, 3.5% of Black residents and 2.4% of White residents.
  • Anosmia (loss of smell and taste) was associated with 8.5 times higher odds of testing positive.
    • Comorbidities did not influence whether someone caught the virus – they influence the outcome.  In fact, people with no comorbidities had higher odds of testing positive.
  • Residents with public-facing jobs (9%) had a much greater prevalence of positive tests than residents with office jobs (3%).
    • Those who reported working from home at least part of the time (3.7%) showed a much lower prevalence than those going in to work as usual (8.2%).

What the Study Tells Us:

  • Given the high number of contagious people with no signs or symptoms, it’s extremely important to follow guidelines for mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing.
    • You can’t be sure that you don’t have the virus just because you’re feeling well.
  • If you experience loss of smell and taste, seek out a test or self-quarantine for 14 days to protect those around you.
  • Participation with contact tracing and testing when appropriate is key to curbing the spread.
  • Virus spread of less than 10% indicates we are not close to herd immunity, which would occur with an exposure rate of approximately 70-80%.

“The data from this study is very telling,” said Eric McMillen, Chief Executive Officer, Ochsner Baton Rouge. “The results are factual evidence we can use to help educate our community about the spread of this virus and encourage our residents to continue wearing masks, social distancing and following handwashing guidelines.”

“It’s important to note that this study represents a specific moment in time,” stated Dr. Feehan.  “Active infections continue to spread in our communities.  We’re working to compare and contrast the data from the New Orleans study with our results from the Baton Rouge study.”  A follow-up report from Dr. Feehan is expected in the coming weeks. Over 5,000 adults across the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas were tested to determine the spread of COVID-19 for these studies, providing a tremendous amount of data representing all ages, races and ethnicities of the region.

Ochsner has completed more than 60,000 community COVID-19 tests across the state since May. Testing is open to residents, age 2+, and there are no out-of-pocket costs. For more information and a list of test locations, please visit www.ochsner.org/testing.

To learn more about Ochsner’s COVID-19 response, please visit www.ochsner.org/coronavirus.


About Ochsner Health

Ochsner Health is a system that delivers health to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South with a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate. Ochsner Health is a not-for-profit committed to giving back to the communities it serves through preventative screenings, health and wellness resources and partnerships with innovative organizations that share our vision. Ochsner Health healed more than 876,000 people from across the globe in 2019, providing the latest medical breakthroughs and therapies, including digital medicine for chronic conditions and telehealth specialty services. Ochsner Health is a national leader, named the top hospital in Louisiana and a top children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report. As Louisiana’s leading healthcare educator, Ochsner Health and its partners educate thousands of healthcare professionals annually. Ochsner Health is innovating healthcare by investing in new technologies and research to make world-class care more accessible, affordable, convenient and effective. Ochsner’s team of more than 26,000 employees and 4,500 providers are working to reinvent the future of health and wellness in the region. To learn more about Ochsner Health, please visit www.ochsner.org. To transform your health, please visit www.ochsner.org/healthyyou.