An uptick in Arkansas' new coronavirus cases resumed on Monday as the number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 topped 200 for the first time in more than three months.
Rising for the second day in a row, the number reported to be hospitalized jumped by 21, to 209, its highest level since March 16.
It was the largest one-day increase in hospitalized patients since Jan. 26, during the state's first wave of infections from the omicron variant.
The state's count of cases rose Monday by 393.
While smaller by 114 compared with the daily increase on Sunday, it was larger by 142 than the rise the previous Monday, when some government offices and businesses were closed in observance of the federal Juneteenth holiday.
For the second day in a row, however, the state on Monday didn't report any new deaths from covid-19.
Arkansas' death toll from the virus, as tracked by the state Department of Health, remained at 11,568.
State Epidemiologist Mike Cima noted that the number of hospitalized covid-19 patients recently has tended to rise early in the week, then fall toward the end of the week.
Overall, the number has remained low compared to other points in the pandemic when the state's new case numbers were as high as they are now, he said.
"I expect us to kind of keep on with this trend of some moderate increases in hospitalizations, followed by some stabilization," Cima said.
"That seems to be the pattern that's emerging here."
As during previous waves of infection, he said the risk of severe illness from covid-19 is highest among the unvaccinated, the elderly and people with certain chronic health conditions.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes, among others.
Noting that new cases have been declining in some states that began experience upticks before Arkansas, Cima said he's hopeful Arkansas' new cases will begin leveling off soon.
But he added, "As it stands right now, the data we're looking at here in Arkansas suggests that the upward trend will continue."
One indication is the percentage of the state's coronavirus tests that are positive. Over the past week, Cima said, it was above 16%, the highest it's been since the initial omicron surge this past winter.
Meanwhile despite the uptick in cases, as well as the rollout of vaccines last week to children younger than 5, Health Department data showed the average number of Arkansans starting the vaccination process each day recently falling below 200 for the first time since the department began regularly releasing daily vaccination numbers in January 2021.
The average over a rolling seven-day period fell to 199 as of Friday and by Monday had fallen further, to 185.
Information on how many children under 5 had received their first doses wasn't available from the Health Department on Monday.
According to CDC data last updated on Thursday, 67.3% of Arkansans of all ages had received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday, and 55% were fully vaccinated.
Of those who were fully vaccinated, 40.6% had received a booster dose.
CASES BY COUNTY
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 71, on Monday, followed by Washington County with 34 and Craighead County with 31.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 861,403.
After dipping on Sunday, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period rose Monday to 837, its highest level since the week ending Feb. 24.
Due to slowdowns in testing and reporting on weekends, the Arkansas' new case numbers tend to be smaller on Sundays and Mondays than during the rest of the week.
With recoveries outnumbering new infections, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell Monday by 447, to 9,694, after topping 10,000 over the weekend for the first time since February.
After not changing a day earlier, the number of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators rose Monday by three, to 13.
The number who were in intensive care, which fell the previous two days, also rose by three, to 35.