State reports 3 more local deaths; virus claims life of Berryville teacher

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Three more Carroll County residents have died from complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Arkansas Department of Health, and Berryville School District superintendent Owen Powell confirmed Monday that a teacher in the district has died.

According to numbers released Monday morning by the Arkansas Department of Health, the total number of deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus in the county now stands at 33. Statewide, the death toll has risen to 4,043.

It’s unclear if the 33 Carroll County deaths reported by the health department include the Berryville teacher.

“Unfortunately, it’s true,” Powell said by text message when asked about the teacher’s death. “We’re all hurting right now.”

The additional deaths came during the same week the ADH reported a substantial increase in the number of hospitalizations and patients requiring intensive care in the state.

“We had a couple of milestones [on Monday, Jan. 4] with nearly 1,500 COVID-19 positive patients who were in-patient in the state of Arkansas,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, a member of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s COVID-19 winter task force and chancellor at University of Arkansas-Medical Sciences, speaking during Hutchinson’s weekly news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 5. “We’ve exceeded that again today, indicating that the upward trajectory of the virus continues to impact the healthcare systems here in the state of Arkansas.”

On Monday morning, the state health department reported 1,340 COVID-positive patients in hospitals across the state, with 441 requiring intensive care. Of those, 319 were on ventilators.

Regionally, hospitalizations remain low, with 153 patients hospitalized in northwest Arkansas, including 71 in intensive care. Nearly a third of the statewide total of patients on ventilators — 118 — are in the northwest region.

“We are stressed, we are strained, but the system is not breaking at the present moment,” Patterson said, speaking for hospitals across the state. “We do have finite resources and so we do need to be careful as to how we manage those resources, and we need to continue to do everything that we can as a state to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 while we wait for the effects of the vaccine to impact us in a positive manner.”

In Carroll County, neither Mercy Hospital in Berryville nor Eureka Springs Hospital are feeling that same strain, as they are able to transfer patients requiring hospitalization to larger facilities that are better equipped to treat COVID-positive patients.

“I have heard different stories about different hospitals having trouble,” Cody Qualls, executive director of development, corporate and community relations for Mercy Berryville, said last week. “Basically, this patient needs transferred and you can’t find a bed for him because of COVID. We have not encountered that here yet. I think there are some other hospitals that maybe have, but it’s not been an issue yet.”

The majority of staff members at both hospitals have received at least the initial dose of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which administrators hope will help local residents feel more comfortable in seeking medical care.

“Some of the folks that did not receive it in the beginning are now asking if we’re going to get more, because they are ready to get it,” said Eureka Springs Hospital interim CEO Angie Shaw. “I had a few staff that were on the fence. They were paying attention to the misinformation out there, but then they started educating themselves and now they’re ready for it.”

Monday morning’s report from the ADH showed 2,281 total cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County — an increase of 158 in the past seven days — including 1,970 lab-confirmed and 2,059 classified as “recovered.” Nearly 190 cases are listed as active.

Statewide, the totals paint a similar picture. Monday morning’s report showed a total of 255,076 cases, an increase of 2,601 since last week, and and additional 18,051 recoveries.

“Right now, north central and northeast Arkansas hospitals are feeling the brunt of the impact,” Patterson said. “This is moving through the state in a fairly predictable way. For right now, the system is holding. We have capacity to surge and expand if that needs to happen. That capacity is not infinite, but I don’t foresee a critical moment in the next two to three weeks. I do anticipate, though, that the strain on the healthcare system will continue to increase on a week-by-week basis as the number of cases continues to increase.”

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