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Arkansas’ count of hospitalized covid patients up by 10 as new cases continue to decline

New covid-19 infections still declining by Andy Davis | August 10, 2022 at 4:24 a.m.
Madison Reynolds, a medical assistant for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, administers a covid-19 test at UAMS' drive-thru triage screening area, located at the corner of Shuffield Drive and Jack Stephens Drive in Little Rock, in this March 24, 2021, file photo. The screenings were offered to those with symptoms of the coronavirus, or those who had been exposed to someone with the coronavirus. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The number of people hospitalized with covid-19 in Arkansas rose for the first time in almost a week on Tuesday as the state's new case numbers continued to decline from last month's peak.

The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by 11, to 11,775.

State Epidemiologist Mike Cima said three of the deaths reported Tuesday happened within the past month.

Of the others, he said, one occurred in February, one was from May, two were from June and four were from early July.

After falling the previous five days, the number of covid-19 patients in the state's hospitals rose Tuesday by 10, to 379.

The number as of Tuesday was still down by 14 from its level just two days earlier, however.

In the past five months, the highest the number hospitalized reached was 442 on July 20.

"Even though cases are trending downward, there is still quite a bit of transmission occurring," Cima said.

"We still have a high number of active cases. That, inevitably, is going to lead to some individuals going to the hospital, so that's why I think you still see that fluctuation day to day for hospitalizations.

"But overall, looking at an extended period of time, the trend in hospitalizations is unmistakable. It is going down."

If the state's new case numbers continue to decline, he said, he expects the number hospitalized to fall "more precipitously than what they are now."

The state's count of cases rose Tuesday by 1,038, which was smaller by 273 than the daily increase the previous Tuesday.

Already at its lowest level since the week ending July 5, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period fell to 923.

Declining for the third day in a row, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 488, to 12,087, as recoveries outpaced new infections.

The active case total as of Tuesday was the smallest since July 5.

Pulaski County had the most new cases, 118, on Tuesday, followed by Craighead County with 62 and Washington County 57.

The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 912,287.

Dropping for the second straight day, the number of the state's virus patients who were in intensive care fell by 10, to 54, the smallest number since July 11.

After falling by one on Monday, the number who were on ventilators rose back up by one, to 17.

At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children's had 14 covid-19 patients on Tuesday, up from 12 on Monday but down from 15 the previous Tuesday, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.

SCHOOL GUIDANCE

Also on Tuesday, Cima said state officials were waiting on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update its recommendations on preventing the transmission of covid-19 in schools before deciding whether the state should issue its own guidance on the issue for the 2022-23 school year.

"We don't want to preempt the CDC and do something different than what they are doing and they are recommending," Cima said.

"We want to make sure that we are as close to the lines as is feasible like we've always really done."

He said the state will likely not issue regular reports on the number of cases and active cases at individual school districts, as it did the past two school years.

The state stopped including higher education institutions in the reports in January, after it ended a requirement for colleges and universities to report cases to the Health Department.

In March, it discontinued the reports altogether after infections fell to such a low level that no school district had five or more active cases among its students and employees.

Around the same time, Cima said, the state stopped requiring school districts to report cases to the Health Department.

"We're not going to have the data available, pretty much, to be able to do that reporting if we wanted to," he said.

Another factor, he said, is the prevalence of at-home tests, the results of which aren't typically reported to the department.

"Just the raw case number, in the absence of any other data, is not as useful a metric as what it was in, let's say, 2020," Cima said.

"It's not an accurate representation of the total burden of disease."

To minimize disruptions to in-person instruction, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in February that the state was no longer requiring school districts to conduct contact tracing in response to students or employees testing positive for covid-19.

A March 14 document from the state Department of Education's Division of Elementary and Secondary Education describes contact tracing and quarantines as "best practice" strategies but ones that aren't required.

After the requirement was dropped, Cima said, the state also discontinued a program that had helped some districts use regular testing as an alternative to quarantines under a "test-to-stay" protocol.

The state continues to operate a hotline offering advice to schools on responding to new cases, he said.


Print Headline: Hospitalizations rise for 1st time in 5 days

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