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‘Tough day’ in Arkansas with record COVID-19 deaths


Governor urges residents to follow coronavirus protocols more closely as cases, fatalities rise As of Wednesday, nearly 4,500 Crittenden County residents had tested positive for COVID-19, with an average of 40 new cases per day being reported over the past week. A total of 76 coronavirus-related deaths have now been recorded locally, for an average of two deaths per week since the start of the pandemic.

These were just some of the grim figures to come out of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s update on the state of the state as ther COVID-19 crisis rages on here and across the country.

The number of Arkansans hospitalized because of coronavirus hit a new record Tuesday with 1,323 patients, according to the Department of Health.

Monday saw 1,296 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, which was up from 1,234 on Sunday, according to the Department of Health. That number climbed by 27 on Tuesday to push the total of Arkansans hospitalized due to COVID-19 to 1,323.

Meanwhile, hospitals across the state struggle to cope with the surging infections. There were 224 patients on ventilators Tuesday, up 12 from Monday. A total of 11,743 Arkansans have been hospitalized due to the virus, and 1,256 have required ventilators.

The state’s active virus cases rose by 1,351 Tuesday to 238,888 and 36 more people died from COVID-19, the department said. There have been 210,617 recoveries.

Hutchinson called the increase in deaths and hospitalizations “vivid reminders of how many families are hurting because of this pandemic.”

“Our health care system is stretched and the numbers are likely to increase more,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office Monday.

About 28 percent of the 124,325 COVID-19 vaccinations received by Arkansas’ hospitals, longterm care facilities and other health care providers, the Associated Press reported Monday. Only about 5 percent of the 24,700 vaccines allocated to CVS and Walgreens through the Long Term Care Federal Program.

Hutchinson has said the state’s goal is to vaccinate all in its first phase – health care workers and nursing home employees in residents – by the end of January and move on to the next phase in February. The governor said the initial rollout shows there needs to be adjustments at the federal and state level.

“We’ve learned the challenges initially that is going to be compounded whenever we get to the larger population groups,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “We’ve just got to have more resources devoted to it, and we’re working very hard to accomplish that.”

Over the past two weeks, there were 1,056 new cases per 100,000 people in Arkansas, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. That ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins.

One in every 162 people in Arkansas tested positive for the virus in the past week.

Four percent of the state’s

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson COVID-19 UPDATE (cont.)

intensive care unit beds and 22 percent of its hospital beds were available, according to the Department of Health.

There are 411 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections on Monday said it will conduct its first round of coronavirus vaccinations for employees. A department spokeswoman said at least 975 will receive the vaccine, which will go toward the department’s contracted medical provider and to officers permanently assigned to medical security and transportation roles.

On Wednesday, Hutchinson reported a near-record increase in coronavirus deaths. The Department of Health reported 65 new deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, bringing the state's total fatalities since the pandemic began to 3,901.

The increase was the state's highest since it reported a record 66 deaths on Dec.


The state's virus cases rose by 3,705 to 242,593. Its hospitalizations, which had hit record levels in recent days, dropped by two to 1,321.

“It has been a tough day with the loss of another 65 of our friends and neighbors to COVID-19,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “Vaccine doses continue to be distributed across the state to those in Category 1-A, and we are also receiving additional doses each week.”

Nearly 4% of the state's intensive care unit beds and 21% of its hospital beds are available, according to the Department of Health.

There are 427 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.

Hutchinson said the state will move police, firefighters and other first responders to the first phase of vaccines being administered. Hutchinson said the state is also adjusting the second phase to include people 70 and other, rather than the original plan that called for people 75 and older.

Hutchinson said the plan is to administer the vaccine to those in the first phase, which also includes health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, by the end of January before moving on to the next phase.

“What we are seeing now is what I and all of us have warned about, and that is a surge on top of a surge,” Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, said at a news conference.

“How much of the second surge we have on top of that first surge is unknown.”

So far, 28 percent of the 134,425 doses the state’s hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health care providers have received have been administered. Five percent of 24,700 doses allocated to CVS and Walgreens for the Long Term Care Federal Program has been administered.

Hutchinson said there are about 180,000 people in the first phase of vaccinations the state is focusing on right now. He said the state hoped to administer vaccines to people in the next phase over 60 days starting in February.

Hutchinson said the state will coordinate with the private sector on the vaccine distribution for the next phases and the general public, and planned to have a report detailing the initiative released by Jan. 15.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday also extended until Feb. 28 its order suspending jury trials that have not begun. The court’s initial order in November was set to expire Jan. 15.

Data from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows case numbers in Earle are down from a November high of 84. Positive new cases had dropped to 35 in mid-December but are back up to 64 as of Monday.

In Marion cases are finally ticking down after hitting a six-week high of 84 last week, going from 44 to 60 to 82 between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Case numbers in West Memphis have seesawed back and forth during the same period (Nov.

28 – Dec. 26), from 49 to 53 to 49 to 71. Currently, there is an average of 44 new cases per 10,000 in the community.

Reported cases were expected to rise in the coming days as schools began a new semester following the extended Christmas break.

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