Today's Paper News Sports Features Business Opinion LEARNS Guide Newsletters Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

Arkansas reports 2,223 new covid cases; hospitalizations drop back below 1,400

by Andy Davis | August 24, 2021 at 4:56 p.m.
Taylor James, a UAMS pharmacist, prepares doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine Saturday, July 31, 2021, during a community wide, back-to-school event at Southwest High School in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The number of Arkansans hospitalized with covid-19 fell back below 1,400 on Tuesday as the state's count of cases rose by 2,223.

The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health rose by 45, to 6,749.

"The hospitalization reduction relieves some pressure on ICU capacity," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a tweet.

"Currently, all covid patients have access as needed to ICU. We're working (with) hospitals to expand capacity. It's difficult with limitations on nurse staffing, but I'm proud of the determination of our hospitals."

After rising the previous two days, the number of covid-19 patients in Arkansas hospitals fell by 44, to 1,367, its lowest level since Saturday.

That was down from the all-time high of 1,459 the number reached on Aug. 16 and smaller by four than its peak in January during the state's winter surge.

The number of virus patients who were on ventilators and in intensive care both fell from their record levels a day earlier.

The number who were on ventilators fell by six, to 343, while the number in intensive care fell by eight, to 550.

The number of intensive care unit beds statewide that were unoccupied, however, fell by four, to 18, due to an increase in non-covid-19 patients who were in intensive care.

Covid-19 patients made up just under half of the 1,103 patients across the state who were in intensive care as of Tuesday.

The increase in cases was larger by 20 than the one the previous Tuesday.

As a result, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period rose slightly, to 2,228.

That was still down from the nearly seven-month high of 2,351 it reached the week ending Aug. 7.

With recoveries and deaths outpacing new cases, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 448, to 23,128.

Meanwhile, at 10,950, the increase in vaccine doses that providers reported having administered, including second and third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, was smaller by more than 1,700 than the one the previous Tuesday.

It was the sixth daily increase in the past seven days that was smaller than the one a week earlier.

The average number of doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to 9,575.

That was down from a nearly three-month high of 12,950 the number reached the week ending Aug. 9.

1:48 p.m.: State's ICU beds for covid patients are full, Hutchinson says

Arkansas does not have any intensive care unit beds available for covid-19 patients as a surge in virus cases continues to overwhelm the state's health system, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.

Virus patients make up about half of the state's ICU beds. The number of virus patients in ICUs and on ventilators reached a new high in the state on Monday.

“Everyone should know the strain this puts on our hospitals and the need to get our vaccinations and how critical our bed space is," Hutchinson told reporters at a news conference.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage »]

Hutchinson said hospitals in the state were working to open more ICU beds for virus patients. Arkansas Department of Health Chief of Staff Renee Mallory said one hospital planned to open additional beds later Tuesday and possibly later in the week. The state on Monday reported it had 22 ICU beds available, but only a handful were equipped to handle covid-19 patients.

Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 40% of the state's population fully vaccinated.

Dr. Jose Romero, the state's health secretary, said the surge in cases is continuing to keep the state's ICU capacity tight.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view »]

“The more beds we open up, the more they’re going to get filled,” Romero told reporters.

In a report issued earlier Tuesday, public health researchers forecast that the state's death toll from covid-19 will exceed 7,000 by Aug. 30. Arkansas on Monday reported 6,704 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

“If this forecast holds true, COVID-19 will have killed more Arkansans than all the wars in the 20th and 21st centuries,” the forecast by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health said.

The researchers' forecast also predicted the number of children hospitalized due to covid-19 will increase by 20% through Aug. 30 and 34% through Sept. 14.

“Hospitalizations and patients requiring intensive cases have reached record numbers and put our hospital system in a precarious position," the report said. The report's cover featured a photo of a forest fire, a reference to how UAMS researchers have described the state's surge in cases and hospitalizations.

[EMAIL SIGNUP: Form not appearing above? Click here to subscribe to updates on the coronavirus »]


Gov. Asa Hutchinson will provide his weekly media update at 11:15 a.m.

Check back to watch the live video.

CORRECTION: Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday reported the state’s intensive care unit beds for covid patients were full. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described which beds were full, using information provided by the governor before he clarified his statement.

This story has been updated. It was originally published at 11:05 a.m.


Sponsor Content