Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Wednesday by 812, a larger increase than one day earlier, but smaller than the spike of 954 cases the previous Wednesday.
After falling the previous two days, the number of covid-19 patients in the state's hospitals rose Wednesday by 15, to 193.
The state's death toll from the virus, as listed on the state's online dashboard of coronavirus information, rose by two, to 11,552.
State Department of Health Director Jennifer Dillaha said Wednesday the state had also confirmed two other covid-19 deaths, both of children, raising the state's death toll among Arkansans younger than 18 to nine.
She said the child deaths were "not very recent," but were being added to the official toll after a review to verify they were related to the virus.
The deaths will be added to the overall toll listed on the dashboard today, she said.
Meanwhile, she said, the state was expecting to receive the final shipments on Wednesday from its second "wave" of deliveries of covid-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 months old.
The first wave, consisting of 15,000 doses each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, arrived Monday at nine of the Health Department's local health units. Those doses were being distributed to other local health units around the state as well as to private clinics and pharmacies.
The second wave included 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that the Health Department planned to redistribute around the state as needed.
It also included 800 doses of Pfizer and 300 doses of Moderna that were to be shipped directly to health care providers.
Beyond the second wave, Dillaha said, the state had also ordered an additional 1,000 doses of Moderna and 900 doses of Pfizer. Further details about those orders weren't available on Wednesday.
In Jonesboro, Woodsprings Pharmacy received an initial supply of 100 doses each of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines on Tuesday, Brittney Johnson, the store's operations manager, said.
She said the pharmacy had given shots for the new age group to two children as of Wednesday afternoon.
"No issues, for sure," Johnson said. "No kids like to get shots, but a couple tears and they were just fine."
In Little Rock, The Pharmacy at Wellington was planning a vaccine clinic this afternoon for children age 6 months to 5 years old.
Although federal and state law don't allow pharmacists to vaccinate children younger than 3, a pediatrician offered to volunteer at the clinic, allowing the shots to be offered for younger children, Brittany Sanders, one of the store's owners, said.
"He felt very strongly that he wanted to help parents get their kids vaccinated if they were interested in doing so," Sanders said.
She said the doctor's wife, who is also a pediatrician, will also be volunteering at the clinic.
She said the pharmacy had an initial supply of 30 doses each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the new age group and was on track to have appointments filled to administer all of the doses at the clinic.
"There's been some interest," Sanders said.
"It's not as intense as when the vaccine first came out for adults, but there are certainly parents who are interested in getting their children vaccinated a quickly as possible."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children from 6 months to 4 years of age and the Moderna vaccine for ages 6 months to 5 years.
Both vaccines are low-dose versions of the companies' shots that are available to adults.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Saturday endorsed an advisory committee's recommendation that all eligible children receive a vaccine, clearing the way for providers to begin administering the shots.
A vaccine hadn't previously been cleared for children under 5.
Anna Strong, executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Arkansas chapter, said most pediatric clinics in the state were expecting to have their initial supply of vaccines for the new age group by the end of the week, and several were offering appointments for Friday.
"I think probably next week will be a better time for everybody feeling like they can get in and make sure that they have a choice of either one of the vaccines," she said.
She recommended parents check their clinic's social media postings for announcements.
"Of course some people work it into well-child visits, but a lot more people do a clinic kind of thing at the beginning of the availability for a new population so that they have part of their team just focus on that," Strong said.
NEW CASES DOWN
Breaking with a gradual upward trend in new covid-19 cases that began in April, the increase on Wednesday was the second one in three days that was smaller than the one a week earlier.
After rising slightly a day earlier, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period fell Wednesday to 699, down from the nearly four-month high of 727 a day that the average reached on Sunday.
Growing for the second day in a row, the number of cases in the state that were considered active rose by 124, to 8,468, as new cases outpaced recoveries.
The total as of Wednesday was still down from a nearly four-month high of 8,763 cases that were active as of Sunday, however.
"I think the trend is slowing," Dillaha, the Health Department director, said of the state's new case numbers.
"I don't know if it's a peak yet."
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 127, on Wednesday, followed by Washington County with 67 and Benton County with 49.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 857,119.
After rising the previous two days, the numbers of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators and in intensive care both fell Wednesday.
The number who were on ventilators, previously at its highest level since April, fell by four, to 11.
The number who were in intensive care, which had been at its highest level since March, fell by nine, to 32.
At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children's had seven covid-19 patients on Wednesday, down from eight as of Tuesday, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.