Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Friday by 393 -- the largest one-day jump in almost three months -- while the number of patients hospitalized with the virus fell for the second day in a row.
The state death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by three, to 5,859.
"The recent increase in new cases is even more evident today with the highest level of new cases in nearly three months," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a tweet.
"Our 7-day positivity rate of 6.5% is of particular concern," he added, referring to the percentage of positive covid-19 tests.
"We continue to see the importance of getting vaccinated to stop this virus in our communities," Hutchinson said.
A day earlier, the Health Department reported that 5.7% of tests had been positive over the previous seven days.
Hutchinson has said that he wants to keep the number below 10%.
After reaching its highest level in more than two months earlier in the week, the number of people hospitalized with covid-19 in the state fell Friday by six, to 202.
The number of virus patients on ventilators rose by three, to 42, the highest level in almost a month.
The number of patients in intensive care units rose by four, to 95.
Friday's increase in cases was the biggest in a single day since the count rose by 396 on March 16.
Friday's count followed a spike of 289 cases on Thursday, which had been the largest one-day increase in more than two weeks.
Health Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said gatherings over Memorial Day weekend are "one possibility" as to why there has been an uptick in cases.
"We are looking to see what other states are experiencing after the holiday, while also taking into account varying vaccination rates among states," McNeill said in an email.
Joe Thompson, CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said he sees a different explanation.
"I think it's our day-to-day activities now, combined with a high number of people that are unprotected" because they haven't been vaccinated, he said.
"The virus is still present, and those people who are not protected are not safe, but we're all relaxing, so the people who are not protected are going to be the ones that are infected, unfortunately maybe hospitalized, and, hopefully not, but predictably, some are going to die," Thompson said.
With vaccines widely available to anyone 12 and older, protection from the virus "has shifted from government responsibility to personal responsibility," he said.
"I suspect we will have continued infections that probably will fluctuate, and that we will have outbreaks where groups of individuals that were not protected came together, the virus was present and many of those get infected, just like when we started this epidemic and pandemic last spring," he said.
"The virus is very effective at infecting unprotected people."
He added that even people who are vaccinated should consider the vaccination status of those who will be in attendance when deciding whether to go to an event.
"If you get around people that are unprotected and likely to have the virus, there is still some risk there, particularly if you have a family member that has a compromised immune system for some reason or is not eligible to get a vaccine," he said.
The average number of cases added in the state over a rolling seven-day period rose Friday to about 210, its highest level since the week that ended May 5.
With new cases outpacing recoveries, the number of state cases considered active rose by 216, to 1,985.
McNeill said the number of Arkansans who had received a lottery ticket or gift certificate for a hunting or fishing license as reward for getting a vaccine dose rose Friday by 112, to 1,402.
The number who had received a $20 scratch-off ticket rose by 77, to 1,083, while the number who had received a pair of gift certificates worth a total $21 rose by 35, to 319.
Hutchinson announced late last month that Arkansans receiving vaccinations May 26 or later would be eligible for their choice of one of the two rewards.
People can claim the the rewards at the department's local health units or vaccine clinics organized by the Health Department or Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.
Statewide, the number of vaccine doses that providers reported administering, including second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rose Friday by 6,653, according to Health Department.
Although larger than the increase on Thursday, it was the first one in six days that was smaller than the one a week earlier.
Already below its level from just before Memorial Day weekend, the average number of doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell by more than 140, to just under 5,600.
As reflected in data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Arkansans who had received at least one vaccine dose rose Friday by 33, to 1,218,577, representing about 40.4% of the state population.
The number who had been fully vaccinated rose by 16, to 969,875, or about 32.1% of the population.
Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas continued to rank 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, 52% of people had received at least one dose, and 42.8% were fully vaccinated.
CASES BY COUNTY
The cases added in Arkansas on Friday included 202 that were confirmed through polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.
The other 191 were "probable" cases, which include those identified through less-sensitive antigen tests.
The state's cumulative count of cases rose to 343,609.
That comprised 268,077 confirmed cases and 75,532 probable ones.
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 62, followed by Saline County, which had 36, and Sebastian County, which had 28.
The Health Department didn't report any new cases among prison and jail inmates.
The state death toll rose by two, to 4,649, among confirmed cases and by one, to 1,210, among probable cases.
Among nursing home and assisted living facility residents, the count of virus deaths remained at 2,093.
The number of people who have ever been hospitalized in the state with covid-19 grew by 26, to 16,541.
The number of state virus patients who have ever been on a ventilator rose by two, to 1,687.