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Downward trend for new covid cases continues in Arkansas, as demand for vaccinations also falls off

Count of covid-19 illnesses grows by 1,631, deaths by 31 by Tess Vrbin | February 6, 2022 at 3:57 a.m.
Registered Medical Assistant Valerie Sanders finishes a test for COVID-19 as she works at the UAMS testing center on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Stephen Swofford)

The number of Arkansans hospitalized with covid-19 continued to fall Saturday for the fifth day in a row, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health.

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There were 43 fewer people hospitalized Saturday than Friday, for a total of 1,512, which still exceeds the peaks of last winter and during the delta surge last summer. The number peaked at 1,371 in January 2021 and 1,459 in August.

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Two more people were admitted to intensive care units Saturday, totaling 457, and five people were put on ventilators, returning to Thursday's total of 230, according to Health Department data.

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The collection of testing and case data was likely impeded by the cold weather and road conditions throughout the state, Health Department communications director Meg Mirivel said in an email. The department recorded 1,631 new covid-19 cases Saturday, 124 more than Friday.

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However, the data showed a continuing drop in active, or currently infectious cases, with 3,409 fewer Saturday than Friday.

Mirivel also said hospitalization data is "likely still accurate despite the weather."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted the drops in active cases and hospitalizations in his daily Twitter statement about the Health Department data Saturday.

"We need to continue to increase vaccinations to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations," Hutchinson tweeted.

Saturday saw the distribution of 1,688 shots, just over half the 3,368 total Friday.

In Arkansas, 54.5% of people ages 5 and older were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, according to Health Department data.

Demand for covid-19 vaccines has declined after it rose in late December and most of January, when the omicron variant of covid-19 was surging.

"As omicron started to ramp up, it certainly concerned a lot of people, so we had a large influx of demand for vaccines the whole month of January," said Anne Pace, a pharmacist at Kavanaugh Pharmacy in Little Rock. "In the last week and a half to two weeks, the demand has certainly dropped off, and other pharmacists throughout Arkansas have seen the same thing. At this point, people who want the vaccine have gotten theirs, so there's nothing left for them to get."

The pharmacy still sees "a dozen or so [people] a week" for their first or second shots, while people seeking boosters came in during the period of high demand, Pace said.

According to Health Department data, 525,530 Arkansans have received booster shots as of Saturday.

Saturday's data reported less than half the number of PCR test results as Friday, with 2,125.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' drive-thru testing clinic in Little Rock reopened Saturday morning after being closed Thursday and Friday because of the weather. The clinic was open for only half of the day, UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said, but 181 people showed up to get tested.

With the omicron surge fading, the clinic has recently seen about 200 people get tested in a full day, Taylor said, so Saturday's demand was "likely because we were closed and because people were snowed in."

During the omicron surge, the clinic saw closer to 800 people per day, she said.

The university's vaccination clinic on Monroe Street in Little Rock, which had also been closed for two days, is no longer open on Saturdays because of lower demand, and instead is open Monday to Friday.

"We haven't had as many people coming through in the last week or two, and we think part of that is because of the home tests [and] because there are more testing places available now," Taylor said. "Our biggest challenge is still ICU beds in the last week because we have more in the ICU than we did before."

UAMS Medical Center had 74 covid-19 patients Saturday, one more than Friday, admitted two new patients and saw one death, Taylor said. Twelve patients were on ventilators, 23 were in intensive care and 28 of the 74 patients were fully vaccinated, she said.

Additionally, 211 UAMS employees were not cleared to work Saturday, a decrease of 42 from Friday, Taylor said.

Washington County saw the most new covid-19 cases in Arkansas with 131 Saturday, according to Health Department data. Pulaski County had 128 and Benton County had 124.

A total of 9,793 Arkansans have died of covid-19 since March 2020, with 31 new deaths reported Saturday.

Print Headline: State hospital cases of virus slide 5th day


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