Currently infectious covid-19 cases in Arkansas increased slightly Friday after falling the previous two days, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health.
The state recorded 1,445 active cases Friday, three more than Thursday but 84 fewer than the previous Friday, according to the data. Active cases in 2021 never fell below 1,594.
Meanwhile, the downward trend continued in hospital numbers, which are reaching some of the lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic.
There were 131 Arkansans hospitalized with covid-19 Friday. That's below the 2021 low of 141 for the second time this week after Wednesday's 139 reported hospitalizations.
Those in intensive care dropped by three, to 43, a new low for this year and below last year's low of 49 on April 13.
A decrease of two patients on ventilators left a total of 32, the lowest number since June 7.
The Health Department reported 189 new cases on Friday, bringing the state's total cases since the start of the pandemic to 832,394.
The department reported 38 new covid-19 deaths -- 25 more than Thursday's total and 15 more than the Friday before. It was the most deaths reported in a single day since March 9, though there are often lengthy delays in the time it takes the Health Department to report coronavirus deaths.
Demand for covid-19 vaccines also continues to decline, with 971 shots distributed Friday, 210 fewer than Thursday and 259 fewer than March 18, according to Health Department data.
"As the cases and hospitalizations decline, the public sees less risk and postpones getting the vaccine," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a Friday statement. "We will continue our education efforts and I expect the rate to accelerate in the summer and fall."
The Health Department is still promoting vaccines as a "crucial" means of protection against the coronavirus, public information officer Danyelle McNeill said. The department's ongoing promotional campaign includes videos from vaccinated Arkansans encouraging others to do the same.
"We are also currently working to conduct market research across the state to identify any additional reasons for vaccine hesitancy that can be addressed," McNeill said.
As of Friday, 1,576,667 Arkansans 5 and older, or 55.4% of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated.
Additionally, 553,652 people, or 35.1% of fully vaccinated Arkansans, have received booster shots, according to Health Department data.
Demand for shots, while still low, saw a small uptick this week at Cornerstone Pharmacy on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in North Little Rock, pharmacist Elise Henson said. The people who came in seeking shots were children on spring break, she said, and their parents finally had the time to take them to get boosted.
Most of the shots given in the past few months have been booster shots, especially during the omicron variant surge in December and January, Henson said.
Pfizer requested federal authorization earlier this month for a fourth shot for people ages 65 and older, and Moderna is also seeking approval for a fourth shot for all adults. Research has shown that the effectiveness of booster shots wanes four months after receiving one.
Henson said Cornerstone has recently received a few inquiries about fourth shots.
"I don't know how serious they would have been about getting it, but they were asking about when it's available and would [we] recommend it when it is," she said.