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State's new-case count soars 1,984

by Ashton Eley | August 2, 2021 at 7:26 a.m.
Breunna Lewis, a medical assistant for UAMS, administers a covid-19 test Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020 at the Lonoke Community Center. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Arkansas' covid-19 cases increased by 1,984 Sunday -- the largest increase reported on that day of the week by the Arkansas Health Department since early January.

Hospitalizations rose too, as well as usage of ICUs and ventilators, and the state's count of active cases approached 20,000.

But the number of vaccinations rose as well, compared with last week's count.

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The count of new cases raised the state's total of coronavirus cases to 388,436 since the pandemic began in March of last year.

Sunday's report of newly identified infections was 962 cases higher than what was announced a week ago by the department, which said then the increase was 1,022 cases.

The last Sunday report to have as many or more new cases within a 24-hour time frame was Jan. 3, with 2,033, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette records of past reports. (Another Sunday in January had a higher count increase, but that included a backlog of older cases.)

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Active cases increased by 948 to 19,738 across the state.

The state death toll rose by 16, totaling 6,157 Arkansans who have died of the virus since the pandemic started.

In July, 244 people in the state died from covid-19, according to department numbers.

The department reported 1,139 people currently hospitalized with the virus, an increase of 34 people from Saturday.

Hospitals placed 13 more patients on ventilators, bringing the total to 235.

Hospitals that responded to calls from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported they were at full or nearly full capacity.

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"The patients we are seeing with the Delta variant are much sicker than the patients we saw months ago. More are on ventilators than we had during the first two surges of Covid-19," University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said via email Sunday evening. "Our ICU is full and our hospital is full and we are staffing patients in other areas of the hospital like the Emergency Department as they are waiting for beds."

UAMS had 68 covid-19 patients hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday, which is slightly down from the average of 70 patients that were hospitalized last week, Taylor said. Of those 68 patients, 31 were in the intensive care unit, 19 were on ventilators and five were on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), or heart-lung bypass machines.

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As the state's only level one trauma center, cancer institute and kidney/liver transplant service, UAMS draws patients from across Arkansas. Leslie said that the growing number of patients with complications from covid-19 is making it difficult for the hospital to find room in the 52-bed ICU for patients with other illnesses.

"We are providing ICU-level care for patients in other areas until beds become available," Taylor said. "Staffing is also a big challenge. Our nurses, doctors and other frontline staff are tired but most continue picking up extra shifts in order to help out."

Baptist Health Medical Center had 228 covid-19 patients Sunday compared with the 199 patients it had last weekend, spokeswoman Cara Wade said.

"Available hospital beds are extremely limited and that can vary hourly," Wade said Sunday afternoon.

CHI St. Vincent hospitals were also experiencing levels of exceptionally high capacity as of Sunday evening, spokesperson Joshua Cook said. It has locations in Little Rock, Hot Springs, Sherwood and Morrilton.

"Despite that increase, our ministry remained prepared to effectively, safely and expertly deliver care for all patients at our care sites," he said.

Cook did not have exact hospitalization numbers readily available Sunday evening but said that each of the CHI St. Vincent facilities continuously reviews its surge capacity plans with emergency preparedness teams.

"Our ministry continues to coordinate closely with other area hospitals and the Arkansas Department of Health as we maintain critical care services for patients with a wide range of health care needs, including the rising number of people in our communities with covid-19," Cook said.

The vaccine numbers are up from last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted in his near-daily Twitter post about the pandemic.

Another 7,149 doses were administered, according to Sunday's report, with 1,940 individuals receiving shots to become fully immunized. By comparison, on Sunday a week ago, 6,218 people received vaccines, including 1,481 who received second shots.

"If you have concerns about the vaccine, please speak with those you trust to get the facts. The vaccine is saving lives," Hutchinson said.

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The Texarkana School District announced it was offering an incentive to employees who can document a covid-19 vaccination -- a $200 bonus.

Contracted employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1 to be eligible for the compensation. Eligible employees will be awarded the one-time payment of $200, which is subject to all applicable taxes and deductions.

Documentation will be accepted in the superintendent's office until close of business on Sept. 1. Payments will be processed and provided to eligible staff by Oct. 15.

The Legislature meets Tuesday to consider supporting the public health emergency that the governor issued last week. Hutchinson also has said he will call a special session of the Legislature to revise a new state law banning most government agencies and public schools from requiring people to wear masks.

The Fayetteville School Board on Thursday called for state lawmakers to grant it the ability to require once again that students and employees wear masks at school.

The board, by a 7-0 vote, approved a resolution expressing its opposition to a new state law that bars schools from imposing a mask requirement.

The Little Rock School Board approved a similar resolution last week and it is considering filing a lawsuit over the issue.

Of the new cases reported Sunday by the Health Department, Pulaski County had the most with 330 cases. Benton County had the second-highest with 196, followed by Washington County with 186.

Information for this article was contributed by Dave Perozek of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Danny Shameer of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Texarkana Gazette.

Print Headline: State's new-case count soars 1,984


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