As our state deals with the spread of covid-19 in the midst of a global outbreak, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will publish five things you need to know each week. We’ll be publishing these round-ups in English, Spanish and Marshallese. You can read our full coverage at arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/. Coronavirus coverage pertaining to crucial public health information will be available for all readers.
Here are this week's five important things to know about the coronavirus.
• Arkansas has 164,310 confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data posted Dec. 4. State health officials also have reported 2,555 covid-19 deaths and 144,624 recoveries.
• State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said Dec. 2 that the Arkansas Department of Health was finalizing its plan for distributing the first doses of the covid-19 vaccine once one is approved. The state plans to give first priority to health care workers and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The 25,000 doses of Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine that Arkansas expects to receive this month won’t be enough to cover all health care workers, Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero told lawmakers Nov. 30.
• Romero also told state legislators that he expects “a surge upon a surge" of new cases. The prediction came as the state broke its record for hospitalizations of covid-19 patients for several days in a row.
• In response to the growing number of hospitalizations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Dec. 1 that the state will create a system to match patients with hospitals that have available resources. He said he has also asked the federal government to help free up hospital beds by waiving requirements that have delayed the transfer of Medicare patients from hospitals to nursing homes.
• The Arkansas Department of Education is asking the state Board of Education to quickly waive the $75 license application fee for new teachers, Hutchinson announced Dec. 1. He said the move will help fill a shortage of substitute teachers and support staff caused by covid-19 quarantines.