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Arkansas’ pandemic indicators continue decline, despite small uptick in ICU patients

by Tess Vrbin | March 13, 2022 at 3:30 a.m.
Nurse practitioner Naomi Crume, with the vascular access team, gets her equipment ready in the hallway of one of the Covid wards at University of Arkansas for Medical Science on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Little Rock. .More photos at Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The number of Arkansas covid-19 patients in intensive care rose Saturday after two consecutive days of reaching its lowest level since June 2021.

However, the state still has fewer than 100 intensive care patients after dipping below the threshold Wednesday for the first time since June, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health.

Seven patients were admitted to intensive care units Saturday for a total of 91. Friday's 84 patients was the lowest number since June 7.

Covid-19 patients that are hospitalized and on ventilators continue to decline. On Thursday, hospitalizations dropped below 300 for the first time since Nov. 16. Saturday saw nine fewer hospitalizations than Friday for a total of 257, the lowest number since June 19.

Two fewer people were on ventilators Saturday, and the total of 47 is the lowest number since June 15, according to Health Department data.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences had 29 covid patients March 2, but that number had gone down to 11 Saturday, spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said. Five patients are in intensive care and three are on ventilators.

While the decline is "hopeful," UAMS is still "prepared for the fact that there could be another variant and another surge," she said. Hospital data statewide is close to the level it reached before the delta variant surge in the summer of 2021.

"We just can't let our guard down until we know exactly what's next with covid-19," Taylor said.

The state recorded 548 new covid-19 cases Saturday, 150 fewer than a week earlier, totaling 826,201 cases since the pandemic began two years ago.

Pulaski County had the most new cases Saturday with 55, Lonoke County had 38 and Saline County had 33, according to state data.

Active, or currently infectious, cases reached the lowest level since June 28, with 2,196, a decrease of 138 from Friday.

The Health Department recorded 28 new deaths for the second day in a row on Saturday, bringing the pandemic's overall death toll to 10,892 in Arkansas.

Demand for covid-19 vaccines has been on the decline for weeks, and the 1,335 shots distributed Saturday were 707 less than a week earlier.

Booster shots made up almost 44% of the latest increase.

Health Department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said vaccination is still the strongest form of protection against covid-19.

"If a new variant is identified, we will have to see what the characteristics of the new variant are before we make recommendations" for protective measures, Mirivel said in an email.

State data shows 1,572,461 Arkansans 5 and older are fully vaccinated against covid-19, and 34.9% have received booster shots.

UAMS' public vaccine clinic will close Friday, and its drive-thru testing site will close March 25, Taylor said.

However, UAMS has extended its visiting hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and non-covid patients are allowed two visitors instead of one, she said.

Print Headline: Count of state covid ICU patients rises


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