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State logs slight rise in active case tally; new infections reported at 1,131

by Tess Vrbin | March 20, 2022 at 3:58 a.m.
Lily Douglas of Fayetteville turns in a swab to get tested for the coronavirus that causes covid-19 at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville in this Feb. 1, 2022, file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

The Arkansas Department of Health reported a slight increase in active, or currently infectious, covid-19 cases Saturday, a shift from a downward trend that active cases had been on for weeks.

The department reported 1,541 active cases Saturday, 13 more than Friday. It was the first increase in active cases since the number peaked at 102,575 on Jan. 22.

However, Arkansas is still at its lowest number of active cases since May 2020, according to Health Department data, and still below the 2021 low of 1,594 in June, before the surge of infections from the delta variant.

State data also showed a four-digit increase in overall cases, with 1,131, but this was because of a backlog of data that built up during the surge of infections from the omicron variant in December and January, Health Department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said.

"Most of the cases entered today were a result of us cleaning up that backlog," she said. "About 200 of the cases entered today happened in the last month or so."

Arkansas has seen 830,020 covid-19 cases in just over two years.

Craighead County had the most new cases Saturday with 103, Pulaski County had 67 and Benton County had 59, according to Health Department data.

The daily count of active cases was unaffected by the backlog, Mirivel said.

The Health Department recorded 25 new deaths of the virus Saturday for a total of 11,078, two days after the death toll in Arkansas exceeded 11,000.

As of Friday, hospitals are no longer required to report their numbers of covid-19 patients to the Health Department on weekends and holidays.

The change is meant "to reduce the reporting burden on the hospitals," the department's chief medical officer, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, said Friday.

Some hospitals did report data to the department Saturday, though Mirivel said she did not know how many.

The data showed a continuing downward trend in the number of hospitalized covid-19 patients, with six fewer Saturday than Friday for a total of 177, the 15th consecutive daily decrease and the new lowest level since June 7, 2021.

The hospitals that reported data had no cumulative change in the number of covid-19 patients in intensive care since Friday's 64, the lowest number since April 24.

One more patient was placed on a ventilator for a total of 41.

Demand for covid-19 vaccines in Arkansas has been in decline for weeks, but the Health Department reported 1,906 shots given Saturday, 571 more than a week earlier and 676 more than Friday.

The 597 booster shots given Saturday made up 34.4% of the total increase.

Shorter College in North Little Rock held a vaccine clinic Saturday in partnership with the Health Department and the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. The clinic distributed Pfizer shots, including those for children ages 5 to 11.

Dr. Paula Martin Fletcher, Shorter's health director, said the college's spring break was one of the factors limiting the number of people vaccinated, but the clinic still gave out all 270 of its at-home covid-19 testing kits.

Fletcher said Shorter implemented a mask mandate, social distancing and weekly coronavirus testing in February in order to avoid any potential resurgence of the omicron variant after it died down in late January.

"Our result so far is that we have no positive cases, so with weekly testing, we were able to get a potential surge under control and keep the school open," Fletcher said.

According to Health Department data, 1,575,200 Arkansans age 5 and older were fully vaccinated as of Saturday,

Print Headline: State logs slight rise in active case tally


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