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Arkansas covid hospitalizations start to fall; hospitals 'still very strained,' governor says

by Andy Davis | January 25, 2022 at 4:10 p.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that 370,000 of the 1.5 million home covid-19 tests purchased by the state remain available for free at local health units in addition to any remaining supplies at libraries and other organizations. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

After jumping a day earlier by the largest amount in a single day since the start of the pandemic, the number of people hospitalized with covid-19 in Arkansas fell Tuesday for the second time in three days.

The state's count of cases rose by 7,943, which was more than twice the size of the daily increase a week earlier that followed a slowdown in testing over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.

Arkansas' death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by 24, to 9,556.

After jumping by 184 on Monday, the number hospitalized fell Tuesday by 32, to 1,785.

It was just the second day since Christmas that the number had fallen. The other day was Sunday, when the number fell by 26.

"It's still very strained in the hospitals," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. "There's a need to bring on additional hospital beds right now."

He referred to the Health Department's request, approved by a state panel on Monday, to temporarily open 27 beds at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center for covid-19 patients using $4.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

A legislative committee on Tuesday recommended that the Legislative Council approve the request at the council's meeting on Friday.

At his weekly news conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Hutchinson pointed to further signs that the surge in cases caused by the omicron variant has started to recede, but he said it's possible additional steps will be needed to increase the state's hospital capacity.

"Even though the hospitalizations declined a little bit today, I would not be surprised if they edge up some more because of the fact that it is a lagging indicator, and so that's why we're watching it very, very closely," Hutchinson said.

After falling the previous three days, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period rose Tuesday to 8,834, which was still down from an all-time high of 9,122 a day the week ending Jan. 16.

Dropping for the third straight day, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 3,742, to 89,572, as recoveries and deaths outpaced new cases.

The number of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators rose by 18, to 233, the largest number since Sept. 27.

The number who were in intensive care jumped by 22, to 515, the first time it had been above 500 since Sept. 9.

Since Saturday, the number in intensive care has been above its peak of 458 last winter, although it remains below the all-time high of 558 it reached during the surge driven by the delta variant in the summer of last year.

The number of covid-19 patients on ventilators peaked at 388 in the summer of last year and at 268 last winter.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson will provide his weekly media update at 1:30 p.m.

Check back to watch the live video.

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