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 roundups 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 recorded 245,916 confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data posted Jan. 8. State health officials also have reported 3,926 covid-19 deaths and 215,980 recoveries.
• Covid-19 vaccinations are being distributed first to hospital workers, those workers and residents in long-term care facilities, certain prison workers and first responders under Phase 1A of the vaccination effort. A plan for the next steps will be posted to the state’s website by Jan. 15, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Jan. 5.
• Arkansans age 70 and older, along with front-line essential workers such as teachers, grocery store workers, workers in food and agriculture, and essential government workers, will be included in Phase 1B of the state's vaccination plan, to begin Feb. 1, Hutchinson also said Jan. 5. Hutchinson said he hopes to move to Phase 1C by April. Those in 1C will be people age 65-69, people 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers.
• The number of covid-19 patients hospitalized in Arkansas topped 1,300 on Jan. 5, setting a new high for the fourth day in a row. The number of virus patients on ventilators and in intensive care also broke records.
• State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said Jan. 6 that high numbers of new cases reflect a "continued upward trend related to Christmas and then New Year's Eve on top of it." She expects the acceleration in new cases to continue as people infected during holiday gatherings pass the virus to others.