Coronavirus cases rise by 325 in state; Arkansas’ total jumped 30% in week

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes covid-19.
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes covid-19.

The number of Arkansas coronavirus cases has increased by 325, to 9,426, according to daily figures released Sunday.

The jump was one of the sharpest reported yet, but it was less than the 450-case increase reported on Saturday.

The overall death toll remained at 154, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

After initially peaking and beginning to fall in April, Arkansas' daily coronavirus count swelled in May and kept rising in early June.

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A week ago, the number of confirmed cases was 7,253. Since then, it has increased by nearly 30%. The 2,173 cases in a week amount to more than 300 per day. Twenty-one deaths were reported over that span.

Covid-19-related hospitalizations climbed from 115 to 145 during the week. The number on ventilators climbed from 27 to 35 over a seven-day span.

Of the new cases reported Sunday, six had ties to the federal prison complex in Forrest City, officials said. The rest were found in communities across the state.

While counties with prison populations were hardest-hit initially, the epicenter has now shifted, according to Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state epidemiologist.

"It appears that we are seeing an increase, in many cases, associated with Latinos in Northwest Arkansas," Dillaha said.

In seven days' time, the number of confirmed Washington County cases nearly doubled, from 509 to 1,016. In Benton County, they soared from 578 to 956.

Both are on pace to surpass Pulaski County, which leads the state with 1,103 cases.

Though Hispanics, according to U.S. census estimates, make up just 7.7% of the state's population, they account for 19% of those testing positive for the coronavirus.

Some of the spread in Northwest Arkansas is occurring among poultry workers, Dillaha said. But there may be other factors in play, she added.

"We're working on getting a team from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to come and help us investigate that further so that if there's any points of intervention to slow the spread, we can identify those and take action," she said.

Testing in Arkansas continues to expand, she said.

"We are kind of ahead of where we thought we might be at this point and time," Dillaha said.

During the first six days of June, 24,710 tests were administered. That's roughly twice the number tabulated during the first six days of May.

Since March, 160,273 tests have been reported. Roughly 94% -- 150,847 -- came back negative.

The percentage of people testing positive is "staying about the same," according to Dillaha.

Of the Arkansans who have tested positive, 6,424 have already recovered; another 2,848 are active cases.

Among the state's 75 counties, only Calhoun County, population 5,189, has had no confirmed cases. No active cases were listed for Newton, Scott, Montgomery, Cleveland, Monroe and Woodruff counties.

Statewide, 20.8% of the Arkansas cases have been in correctional facilities, while 4% have been in nursing homes. Health care workers account for 8.1% of the cases.

Of the 154 deaths, 64 -- or 41.6% -- have been linked to nursing homes. Twelve -- or 7.8% -- have been connected to correctional facilities, according to the Health Department.

Of those testing positive, 56% are male.

As is the case elsewhere, covid-19 is proving particularly devastating to older populations. No one in Arkansas age 24 or younger has died after contracting the disease. Seventy-three percent of those who died were 65 or older; 22% were 45-64; and 5% were 25-44, according to the Health Department website.

Those falling ill in Arkansas are disproportionately non-white. While whites make up 79.1% of the state's population, they account for 52% of the state's covid-19 cases and 59% of fatalities. Blacks make up 32% of those testing positive and 32% of those killed; the state's population, overall, is 15.7% black. One percent of those testing positive are Asian, who make up 1.7% of the population. They also account for 1% of the deaths.

Pacific Islanders represent 5% of those testing positive and 3% of those succumbing to the coronavirus, state data shows. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders make up 0.4% of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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In 10% of all Arkansas covid-19 cases and in 5% of all covid-19 deaths, the race is listed as "other."

Many of those testing positive have additional health problems: 14.8% have hypertension; 8.4% have diabetes; 3.5% have heart disease; 2.9% have chronic pulmonary disease; and 1.2% are immunocompromised, according to Arkansas Health Department data.

While the largest clusters in Arkansas have been linked to prisons, steps to slow the spread of the virus appear to be working in Lincoln County. The number of cases there was listed at 985 on Sunday, up from 982 a week ago.

St. Francis County, with its federal prison operations, climbed from 672 to 753.

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