Parts of the Coronavirus


Reviewed 04.27.2021

As part of Pennington’s response to the global pandemic, this COVID-19 Resource Center has been created for you to stay informed about the Center’s reaction and operations during this unprecedented time.

Use the links at the top of each page to find:

  • Coronavirus - information about the prevention and spread of COVID-19
  • Participants - updates for study participants in ongoing clinical trials
  • Employees - revised policies and resources for faculty and staff
  • Research - the latest research in the relationship of COVID-19 and obesity

Please note that the information on these pages, including external links, is being updated often.

News, Updates & Resources

Featured News Stories

Governor Edwards Lifts Mask Mandate in Louisiana as more than 1 in 4 people in the state are vaccinated against COVID-19
April 28, 2021

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today that some mitigation measures will be eased and, starting Wednesday, April 28, the statewide mask mandate will be lifted. Mask policies in Louisiana will be set by local leaders and business owners. Read more specifics here.

New guidance from the CDC today also highlights the protective strength of vaccination as the group loosens mask-wearing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in outdoor settings across the country. Most outdoor and many small indoor events, such as restaurant dining, can now be attended safely by vaccinated individuals without wearing a mask. CDC safety specifics on mask requirements are available here

If you haven't been vaccinated yet, you can locate sites in Louisiana at the Department of Health website or call 1-855-453-0774 to schedule a vaccine appointment. 

Updated Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
MedWatch - The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program

April 14, 2021

The FDA and CDC are reviewing data involving six cases reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) of a low level of platelets in the blood in combination with a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in individuals who had received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. One individual died. All cases occurred in females ranging in age from 18 through 48 years. In some of the reported cases of CVST, blood clots also involved large veins in the abdomen.

Out of an abundance of caution, the FDA and CDC are recommending a pause in the use of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine while the FDA and CDC, including through its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices investigate these reports of serious adverse events.

Read more here including who is at risk for adverse events and what should health care providers look for in evaluating Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine recipients for the rare adverse events.

Governor Edwards Announces All Louisianans 16 or Older will be Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine
March 24, 2021

All Louisianans 16 years old or older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, March 29, following news from the federal government that Louisiana’s allocation of vaccine doses will significantly increase next week, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced.

Read more here

Study to Tackle Barriers to COVID-19 Testing in Black Communities
November 30th, 2020

Strategies to increase COVID-19 testing in underserved black communities, to be studied by Pennington Biomedical scientists via a federal grant announced today, will also help shape COVID-19 vaccine and treatment distribution plans to citizens living in the vulnerable, high-risk neighborhoods. 

Baton Rouge area community partners including the Mayor President’s HealthyBR initiative and members of the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center (LA CaTS) have joined the project to assist research implementation. They aim to strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, COVID-19 testing patterns, disease progression and outcomes.

John Kirwan, Executive Director says “Getting these answers is urgent because we’re drawing ever closer to federal approval for COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution.” The study, named “Radx-UP,” is a $1.8 million NIH grant awarded to the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center (LA CaTS), and Pennington Biomedical

Read more here


Helpful Resources

EPA List of Antimicrobial Products
CDC Coronavirus Information
LSU Coronavirus Updates & Information
Louisiana Department of Health - Defend Against COVID-19
Louisiana Governor’s Office Coronavirus Information
PAR Research Brief: "Tracking COVID-19 Benchmarks"

Why are those with Obesity at Higher Risk for Severe COVID-19 Infection and Death?
Top 5 FAQs:

The experts at Pennington Biomedical Research Center explain why and how obesity affects COVID-19 in this FAQ. “Thank you”, for these responses goes to Steven Heymsfield, MD, FTOS, former Executive Director of the Center; Eric Ravussin, PhD, Boyd Professor and Associate Executive Director of Clinical Science, and Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, FACSM, FTOS, Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences.

1) Why are those with obesity more at risk for a severe case of COVID-19?

Inflammation that often accompanies obesity can cause the body to rev up the immune system response to any infection such as COVID-19.

Under normal circumstances, inflammation indicates that the immune system is fighting off infection by sending blood cells and other messengers to the injury. Once those cells show up to the injured tissue, you’ll notice swelling and you may see a reddish or “inflamed” color. Once the wound heals, the immune system backs off, swelling goes down and color returns to normal.

In people with obesity, the immune system may see fat that surrounds organs in the abdomen, also known as visceral fat, as a threat like a potential injury. So, the immune system is working overtime sending out blood cells and other chemicals every day, all day long, to attack damaged cells. This leads to chronic inflammation.

In the case of COVID-19, the immune system goes into even higher overdrive in a way that can cause a “cytokine storm” reaction. Cytokine molecules are part of a healthy immune system response, except when the number of molecules soars. Then immune cells may build so quickly that they crowd and break through the walls of an inflamed lung, as just one result. That’s when fluids will build up in the lung, making it hard to breathe and triggering the need for ventilator support.

Roughly 40 percent of U.S. adults have obesity, which helps explain why COVID-19 is having such a big impact on our healthcare system.

2) Is inflammation the only reason COVID-19 is more dangerous to people with Obesity?

No. It gets worse. Impaired immune systems make an individual more susceptible to viral infections in general. One study shows that adults with obesity have twice the incidence of flu or flu-like illnesses despite being vaccinated.

Obesity is also often accompanied by other conditions that are risk factors for COVID-19 complications, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease like obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is also often accompanied by other conditions that are risk factors for COVID-19 complications, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease like obstructive sleep apnea.

3) What level of BMI puts you at most risk?

Those with severe or class III obesity which is defined as a BMI of 40 or higher. A person who is 5’9” and weighs 271 pounds has a BMI of 40. A person with severe obesity who requires hospitalization presents a greater challenge. He or she may need a special, bariatric hospital bed. Even hospitals with bariatric surgery units have a limited number of these beds. Other hospitals may not have any.

People with obesity and COVID-19 are more likely to need a ventilator. But intubations may be more difficult and require personnel with specialized training. Hospitals have been able to reduce mortality rates for some patients who need ventilators by placing the patients on their stomachs. This option may not be available for people with class III obesity because they, like pregnant women, may not do well in that position.

Obtaining an imaging diagnosis may also be more complicated because many imaging machines have weight limits.

4) How does obesity affect my respiratory system?

A person with obesity carries excess chest and abdominal fat, and that extra weight puts pressure on their diaphragm, lungs, and chest cavity. This can lead to breathing problems and even lung damage. In simpler terms, a person with obesity can’t get enough oxygen. He or she can’t catch a (full) breath.

It’s also possible that the extra weight may damage the diaphragm muscles. The respiratory system of a person with obesity is already laboring at a disadvantage before the added distress of a COVID-19 infection. With the infection, their blood oxygen levels could drop to near-fatal levels or fatal levels without them knowing.

5) How should I prepare for coronavirus if I have obesity?

Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even at home. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people outside your home. Avoid crowds and large gatherings.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces – tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, etc. – every day.
  • Exercise. Change your diet. Lifestyle changes, like a daily workout routine or a better diet, can help you stay healthy. Check out Pennington Biomedical’s YouTube page or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for quick tips on exercise and eating healthy.

COVID19 and Obesity

Obesity is associated with worse outcomes in COVID‐19: Analysis of Early Data From New York City
'Obesity should not be dismissed': Excess weight drives inflammation, hypoventilation behind COVID-19 complications
Obesity can shift severe COVID-19 to younger age groups
Effects of COVID‐19 Lockdown on Lifestyle Behaviors in Children with Obesity Living in Verona, Italy: A Longitudinal Study
Editorial: COVID 19 and the Patient with Obesity – the Editors Speak Out

Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a comprehensive list of COVID-19 preventative behaviors we encourage you to review. A vaccine is not currently available for COVID-19 and everyday prevention measures are the most important steps we can take to safeguard everyone’s health.

We are asking you to make practicing appropriate hand hygiene a priority by:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly with soap* and water at frequent intervals throughout the day
WHO How to wash hands

(*For the eye-opening science behind how and why everyday soap works so well against SARS-Co2, check @pallithoradarson, supramolecular chemistry expert on Twitter).

Additional Recommended Steps You Can Take

  • Covering your coughs
  • Limiting close contact with others
  • Disinfecting shared common objects
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Avoid touching other people or attending unnecessary social interactions and travel
  • Staying home if you suspect you are sick

Social Distancing Reduces Your Risk and Stops the Spread

One of the best ways to stay healthy and reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is called "social distancing."

If COVID-19 is spreading in your area, limiting close contact with all individuals outside your household will help reduce the spread in your community as well.

Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you have no symptoms.

To Practice Social Distancing

  • Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people
  • Do not gather in groups
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Why is social distancing so effective?

There is no vaccine for COVID-19, so the best way to stay healthy is to prevent the spread of the disease through other measures.

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. An infected person will cough, sneeze or talk and droplets from the mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs.

For more on social distancing, including tips on how to visit the grocery store safely, and why to wear a mask in public, see the CDC website source here:

Wearing a Mask

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends that everyone wear a mask in public. This will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and keep you healthier.

People with the virus, and even those without any symptoms or idea that they might be sick, can spread the virus. If they are wearing a mask, they are less likely to spread the virus to healthy individuals. Based on previous virus research with animals and humans, we also know that viral dose exposure affects the severity of an illness. A lower viral dose exposure gives the immune system a better chance of winning against the disease. Masks can help reduce your viral dose exposure to infected air droplets.

The CDC has also provided a “DIY Mask Tutorial” video here.

Masks vs. Respirators

Mask Respirator
Purpose Surgery masks protect other people against infection from the person wearing the surgical mask by trapping large particles of body fluids that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer. Also, to a smaller extent, protects the user by providing a physical barrier against hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids. Dust masks filter out dust and mild irritants. Designed to reduce a worker's exposure to airborne contaminants.
Fit Loose-fitting; there will be gaps between the mask and the face. Provide a tight seal; forces inhaled air to be pulled through the respirator’s filter material. Fit-testing is required before use.
Certification Cleared by the FDA. Evaluated, tested and approved by NIOSH and will have the word NIOSH printed on the product.
Filtration Does not provide wearer from protection against smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection. Filters 95-99% of aerosols (an N95 will filter 95% of particulates, an N99 filters 99%).
Limitations Disposable. Designed to be used for one patient and then discarded. Disposable. Designed to be discarded after each patient encounter or if it becomes damaged or contaminated.