The number of new covid-19 cases in Arkansas turned upward Saturday after its Friday drop, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health.
The state recorded 507 new cases Saturday, 204 more than Friday but 167 fewer than Nov. 20.
Vaccine distribution also took a dip because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but the state recorded 5,361 shots given Saturday, which Health Department communications director Meg Mirivel said "is a good number" for a holiday weekend.
In contrast, 14,849 shots were given Nov. 20, the largest number of any day in the past month.
"With the new variant (Omicron) from South Africa, we must continue our efforts & education on vaccines," Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted Saturday. "Arkansans understand the risk of Covid & on their own are making the decision to be vaccinated."
The omicron variant rose to global attention Friday as a potentially more contagious version of covid-19, nearly two years into the ongoing pandemic. Omicron's actual risks are not understood, but early evidence suggests that it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, a World Health Organization panel said Friday.
The state Department of Health is "closely monitoring news of the omicron variant and what this new variant means for Arkansans," Mirivel said in an email. She continued to encourage vaccination, including booster shots for adults, as a means of protection against covid-19.
So far, 285,024 Arkansans have received third doses of the covid-19 vaccine, including 3,142 on Saturday, according to Health Department data. Additionally, 937 people reached full immunization Saturday, meaning 1,438,733 Arkansans are fully vaccinated, or 50.6% of the population age 5 and older.
Arkansas has seen 527,213 covid-19 cases since March 2020, and 5,893 cases are currently considered infectious, according to Health Department data. Benton County had the most new cases Saturday with 65, Pulaski County had 52 and White County had 32.
The number of Arkansans hospitalized with the virus jumped for the second day in a row, with 20 new patients Saturday for a total of 354, and 161 of them were in intensive care, according to the data. Two patients were put on ventilators Saturday for a total of 68.
So far, 8,653 people throughout the state have died of covid-19, including one death recorded Saturday.