After rising by double digits the previous two days, the number of people hospitalized with covid-19 in Arkansas fell part of the way back down Thursday as the state's count of active, or currently infectious, cases continued to decline.
The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by seven, to 11,977.
Health Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said all the deaths reported Thursday happened more than a month ago.
One of the deaths occurred in January, one was from February, one was from March, one was from April, one was from May, one was from June and one was from July, she said.
After hitting a two-month low of 258 on Monday, then rising by a total of 28 over the next two days, the number of covid-19 patients in the Arkansas' hospitals fell Thursday by nine, to 277.
The state's count of cases rose by 845 -- down by 174 compared to the increase Wednesday and by 298 from the one the previous Thursday.
Dropping for the second day in a row, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period fell to 750, which was down from an average of 797 a day the previous week.
With recoveries outpacing new cases, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 379, to 9,217, its lowest level since June 22.
"We're pleased to see cases continue to decrease," McNeill said in an email.
She said it was difficult to predict how much longer the decline would continue.
As long as the state's active cases keep falling, however, health officials expect the number hospitalized to also trend downward, she said.
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 106, on Thursday, followed by Washington County with 57 and Craighead County with 43.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 944,789.
After not changing the previous two days, the number of the state's virus patients who were in intensive care fell Thursday by six, to 49.
The number on ventilators, which fell by two on Wednesday, remained Thursday at 16.
At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children's had 13 covid-19 patients Thursday, down from 14 on Wednesday and 17 the previous Thursday, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.
Despite the downward trend in the state's new case numbers overall, the number of Arkansas counties where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear masks in indoor public places rose Thursday by seven, to 22, after falling a week earlier.
The recommendation applies to counties where the "covid-19 community level" -- based on weekly numbers of new cases, hospital admissions for covid-19 and the percentage of staffed hospital beds that are occupied by covid-19 patients -- is considered "high."
Under the latest weekly update to a CDC map, the level rose from "low" or "medium" to high in 10 Arkansas counties: Ashley, Bradley, Clay, Cleveland, Desha, Drew, Jefferson, Lonoke, Perry and Scott.
Meanwhile, the level fell from high to medium in Grant and Prairie counties and from high to low in Johnson County.
Overall, the number of counties with a low covid-19 level fell by 10, to 28, while the number with a medium level rose by three, to 25.
Among the state's most populous counties, the level remained medium in Pulaski and Saline counties, low in Benton and Washington counties and high in Faulkner and Craighead counties.
In Sebastian County, the level rose from low to medium.
In counties with a medium covid-19 level, the CDC recommends that people who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe covid-19 talk to their health care providers about whether they should wear masks or take other precautions.
People in those counties also should consider wearing masks around people who have a high risk of severe illness, according to the CDC.
In counties with a low covid-19 level, the CDC doesn't have a recommendation about whether people should wear masks.