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Arkansas covid cases, hospitalization rise; state joins suit over health worker vaccine mandate

Active infections also climb; 3 deaths added to virus toll by Jeannie Roberts | November 11, 2021 at 7:06 a.m.
Nurses Kia Kandlbinder (left) and Brionna Rivers hand equipment through the door to fellow nurses in one of the Covid wards at University of Arkansas for Medical Science on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Little Rock. .(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The number of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and active cases all climbed higher Wednesday, while deaths from the disease fell to single digits.

Also on Wednesday, Arkansas joined nine states in a lawsuit against President Joe Biden's administration over its vaccine requirement for health care workers in Medicare and Medicaid facilities.

The 675 coronavirus cases that were added Wednesday -- 61 more than the previous day and 129 more than the same day last week -- brought the cumulative total to 517,675, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

"New and active COVID cases have increased slightly from last week. This is worth noting," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday afternoon on Twitter. "Vaccine doses are above last Wednesday's level, and this is important. Let's encourage vaccinations before winter sets in."

With new cases outpacing recoveries, the number of cases in the state that were considered active rose by 177, to 4,537 -- 41 more than last week.

The number of patients hospitalized with covid-19 jumped by eight, to 296, while the number of virus patients who were on ventilators increased by three, to 66.

The state's death toll from the virus since March 2020, as tracked by the Health Department, rose by three, to 8,525.

Meanwhile, the number of vaccine doses that providers reported having administered rose by 12,783, to 3,234,716.

The number of fully immunized individuals increased by 1,974, to 1,413,682, or 55.3% of Arkansans age 5 and up.

As of Wednesday, 207,460 third vaccine doses had been administered.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday, 86.4% involved unvaccinated people, while 88.5% of those hospitalized had not received the shots. About 78.1% of the active cases and 86.5% of the deaths involved unvaccinated people.

LAWSUIT FILED

On Wednesday, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that she and nine other state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the federal vaccine mandate for facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding.

"President Biden's latest unconstitutional overreach will directly impact Arkansas's healthcare community," Rutledge said in a statement. "I will be the last line of defense against Biden's reckless overreach. Americans deserve better."

The federal mandate requires that full-time and part-time employees, volunteers and contractors working at health care facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding be vaccinated.

The petition for review in the challenge to Biden's directive was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Arkansas is joined in the challenge by Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire.

PEDIATRIC VACCINATIONS

As of Wednesday morning, at least 4,934 Arkansas children ages 5-11 had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since Nov. 3 after the pediatric vaccine was given the green light by federal authorities, Health Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said.

"But again, there is often a lag in reporting, so likely there were more vaccinations than that given -- they just haven't been entered into our system yet," McNeill said.

As of late Wednesday, the Health Department was still waiting for the remaining 28,500 doses of the 95,100 that were supposed to be delivered last week.

"The state-ordered pediatric COVID-19 vaccine first went to local county health units and enrolled COVID-19 vaccine program providers participating in the Vaccines for Children federal program. Last week, the Vaccine for Children providers enrolled in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program received their doses," McNeill said. "This week, the non-VFC providers will receive the doses they have requested once this week's order has been delivered to the ADH hubs. ADH is expecting 28,500 doses to be delivered this week."

Nearly 2% of the state's estimated 271,000 children ages 5-11 have been vaccinated.

"We are pleased with how the rollout is going so far. We are monitoring demand," McNeill said. "We are happy with the reports we are receiving of requests for vaccine all around the state. We'll have a better understanding of the demand next week as we receive the data from the vaccination providers and can evaluate the trends."

Since receiving its first shipment of the pediatric doses, Arkansas Children's Hospital has administered 481 shots for children between the ages of 5 and 11, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.

"We continue to see steady interest, with families signing up for our public clinics as we open them. We offer the vaccine in our primary care clinics daily and talk with families about their decision to vaccinate," DeMillo said. "We want to hear families' concerns and address them with factual information."

Baptist Health System began administering the kid-size vaccine doses Wednesday, spokeswoman Cara Wade said.

Baptist has received 400 doses so far -- 100 doses went to Baptist Health Medical Clinic in Arkadelphia, 100 went to the Sherwood Family Medical Center, and the remaining 200 went to the Baptist Health Pediatric Clinic in Conway.

"Demand for the vaccine will determine how many additional vaccines we may receive," Wade said. "In Sherwood there are already 45 appointments set for vaccines this afternoon [Wednesday]."

PEDIATRIC NUMBERS

There have been 99,679 Arkansas children from birth to 18 years old who were diagnosed with covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to the state Health Department.

Of those cases, 919 children were hospitalized with covid-19, and 117 were admitted to intensive care.

The state has reported 4,205 cases in children under a year old; 11,809 cases in children 1-4 years old; 32,106 cases in children 5-11 years old; and 51,599 cases in children 12-18 years old.

About 96.3% of patients ages 12-18 were unvaccinated. About 9.8% of the 12- to 18-year-old population in Arkansas is partially vaccinated, while 41.1% is fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, the state had 1,230 active cases among patients from newborn to 18 years old.

TEST RESULTS

There were 6,837 newly reported covid-19 tests, comprising 5,190 PCR and 1,647 antigen tests.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 5,342,679 tests have been reported. Of that number, 541,695 were positive for covid-19, according to Health Department data.

COUNTY CASES

Health Department data indicates that Benton County had the largest increase in cases reported Wednesday, with the count rising by 54.

The next-highest increase was Sebastian County, with 45, then Washington County, with 44.

Print Headline: State sees rise in new cases, hospital tallies

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