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1,339 state virus cases added; deaths up 18

Rising 18 in day, hospitalizations hit 1,105 by Tess Vrbin | August 1, 2021 at 5:21 a.m.
Karson Freeman of Little Rock prepares to undergo coronavirus testing at a drive-thru clinic across from Baum-Walker Stadium on the outskirts of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus in this Sept. 1, 2020, file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

Arkansas recorded 1,339 new coronavirus cases Saturday, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health, raising the total cases to 386,452 since the pandemic began in March of last year.

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The state death toll rose by 18, totaling 6,141 Arkansans who have died of the virus.

And, the predominance of the infectious delta variant of covid-19 put the number of Arkansans hospitalized with the virus at above 1,000 Tuesday, and the number has continued to climb. The Health Department reported 1,105 hospitalizations Saturday, an increase of 18 from Friday.

Also, Saturday a weekly online update showed that the Little Rock School District reported 17 positive cases, and 33 students and staff members in quarantine from July 23 to July 30.

Vaccinations ticked up Saturday with 12,866 shots administered statewide, 680 more than a week earlier and 3,431 more than Friday, the Health Department reported.

As of Saturday, 41.4% of Arkansans age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to Health Department data. The percentage grew 5.1% from Friday, when 36.3% were fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arkansas still lags behind most states in its residents getting the vaccine.

"Today's report provides us with some good news on the vaccine front," Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted Saturday. "Almost 13,000 doses administered helps us get closer to our goal, but the continued, steady increase in hospitalizations puts a strain on our health care workers."

State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said the upward trend in hospitalizations is "very worrisome."

"We're seeing more hospitalizations of younger people than we did in the past, and we're seeing more and more children in the hospital," she said.

Gallery: Southwest High School Clinic

The most effective way to lighten the load on hospitals and health care workers is to get vaccinated, Dillaha said. Vaccinated people still can carry the delta variant but are much less likely to contract severe symptoms.

The rise in hospitalizations led Hutchinson to reinstate the public health emergency Thursday that he had allowed to expire at the end of May.

On Saturday, 222 Arkansans were on ventilators with covid-19, according to Health Department data, an increase of three from Friday.

Pulaski County had the most new cases in the state with 165. Washington County had 125 new cases and Craighead County had 90.

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With the school year fast approaching, the state Departments of Education and Health, and the governor's office released covid-19 school safety guidelines Tuesday. Those guidelines recommend that people take as many precautions as possible, including wearing face coverings, physical distancing and adequate room ventilation.

A state law that went into effect Tuesday bans school districts and other government agencies from requiring wearing of masks for entry, education or services. Hutchinson is planning to call a special session of the Legislature, likely this week, to consider granting public schools an exemption from the law.

On Saturday afternoon, Valencia Williams accompanied her 15-year-old daughter to receive her first covid-19 vaccination.

Williams' daughter was one of more than 200 people who received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Little Rock Southwest High School, which she attends.

Williams said she left the decision to be vaccinated up to her daughter. Her 16-year-old son is still considering it, she said.

"She plays volleyball, so she's really active in school," Williams said. "[That] was kind of her driving force to get vaccinated."

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences held the clinic in collaboration with Arkansas United, an immigrants' advocacy organization, and the Little Rock office of the Mexican Consulate. Additionally, Little Rock Southwest High School celebrated its reopening Saturday with an event providing free school supplies at the same time as the vaccinations clinic.

Gloria Richard-Davis, the executive director for diversity, equity and inclusion at UAMS, said the clinic was part of an ongoing effort to encourage southwest Little Rock's Hispanic and Black communities to receive vaccinations.

Many of Saturday's patients received their second doses, since they had their first one three weeks earlier at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in the same part of the city, Richard-Davis said.

Williams said she believes school districts should be allowed to choose whether to require masks.

"It's scary, [and] it's definitely a concern not to have a mask mandate," she said.

Those who received their first vaccine doses at Saturday's clinic will be able to receive their second doses in the same place on Aug. 21, Richard-Davis said.

She also said she was "ecstatic" at the turnout and called it "phenomenal," especially since demand for vaccinations had been on the decline statewide for weeks.

"We've done a lot of these events, and early on we had some pretty good turnout and then it started to dwindle off," she said. "Some events recently had 50 people."

Print Headline: 1,339 state virus cases added; deaths up 18

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