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State virus cases up by 69 as tests hit holiday lull

Vaccination rewards kick in; health agency exec sets exit by Andy Davis | June 2, 2021 at 7:13 a.m.
FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. Doctors at Kyoto University Hospital said Thursday, April 8, 2021, they have successfully performed the world’s first lung transplant from living donors to a patient with severe lung damage from the COVID-19.(NIAID-RML via AP, File)

Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose by just 69 Tuesday after a slowdown in testing over the holiday weekend, while the number of people hospitalized with covid-19 in the state rose by one.

The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the state Department of Health, rose by one, to 5,834.

The pace of vaccinations, as reflected in figures reported by the department, also continued to be down compared with a week earlier.

"Today's report shows another day of lower testing and lower vaccinations due to the Memorial Day Weekend," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

"We have several vaccination clinics around the state this week, and you'll be eligible to receive an incentive for doing your part."

Tuesday was the first day that people who received coronavirus vaccines on May 26 or later were allowed to claim rewards, in the form of $20 lottery scratch-off tickets or gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses, at the Health Department's 92 local health units around the state.

Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said she didn't have information Tuesday afternoon on how many of the rewards had been claimed.

Meanwhile, the Health Department this week is set to lose another top official to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Department Chief of Staff Stephanie Williams will be a public health adviser at the federal agency, McNeill said.

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Williams said in her resignation letter, dated May 17, that her last day with the Health Department will be Friday and that she'll be retired from the department effective July 1.

"Serving the people of Arkansas as an employee of the Arkansas Department of Health has been a true joy," Williams, 54, said in the letter.

"I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have had over the past 31 years."

Williams is at least the second top Health Department official to leave for a job with the CDC during the pandemic.

Nate Smith stepped down as leader of the department last year to become the CDC's deputy director for public health service and implementation science.


State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said she was happy with the small number of new cases Tuesday, but added that it should be taken with "a grain of salt" because of the holiday.

Unlike the state's daily cases increases, the number of virus patients in the state's hospitals hasn't been trending downward.

After increasing by six Monday, the number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 rose Tuesday to 201.

Dillaha said the hospitalization numbers could indicate that a growing number of cases in the state are going undiagnosed.

Hospitalizations could also be resulting from cases caused by the variant from the United Kingdom, which tends to cause serious illness more often than the original coronavirus strain, she said.

Over the past week, the number of cases found to have been caused by the variant rose by 24, to 165.

The Health Department also learned of two more cases caused by variants from California, bringing the total number of cases in Arkansas known to have been caused by those variants to 36.

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The number of cases in Arkansas identified as having been caused by the variant from Brazil rose by two, to 16.

More than 20 cases in Pulaski County have been determined to have been caused by variants of concern, according to the Health Department.

Thirteen other counties have had five to 20 cases that were found to have been caused by such variants, and 26 other counties have had between one and four such cases.

The actual number of cases caused by variants is unknown because only a small percentage are tested to determine that.


The overall increase in cases Tuesday was larger than the one a day earlier but less than a quarter the size of the increase the previous Tuesday.

The average number of cases added to the state's tallies each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to 134, setting a new low for the year.

The number of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators remained at 38.

The number of vaccine doses that providers in Arkansas reported having administered, including second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rose by 1,525.

That was slightly higher than the rise a day earlier but down by more than 7,800 from the increase the previous Tuesday.

The average number of doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to 5,656, its lowest level since Feb. 20.

According to the CDC, 1,195,224 Arkansans, or about 39.6% of the state's population, had received at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday.

That included 942,315 people, or about 31.2% of the population, who were fully vaccinated.

Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas ranked 45th in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one vaccine dose and 49th, ahead of only Alabama and Mississippi, in the percentage who were fully vaccinated.

Nationally, 50.8% of people have received at least one vaccine dose, and 40.9% are fully vaccinated.


The cases that were added to Arkansas' tallies Tuesday included 29 that were confirmed through polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.

The other 40 were "probable" cases, which include those identified through less-sensitive antigen tests.

The state's cumulative count of cases rose to 341,450.

That comprised 266,726 confirmed cases and 74,724 probable ones.

The number of cases that were considered active fell by 125, to 1,596, as recoveries outpaced new cases.

Pulaski County had the most new cases, 11, followed by Saline County with nine, and Craighead County with eight.

The Health Department didn't report any new cases among prison and jail inmates.

The state's death toll rose by one, to 1,206 among probable cases and remained at 4,628 among confirmed cases.

Among nursing home and assisted living facility residents, the state's count of virus deaths remained at 2,091.

The number of people who have ever been hospitalized in the state with covid-19 grew by 17, to 16,346.

The number of the state's virus patients who have ever been on ventilators with covid-19 remained at 1,661.


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