New Year’s spike doubles previous marks
During the past week, Arkansas hit a record daily high for active cases of COVID-19 for four consecutive days.
According to Monday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Health, the number of overall cases of the novel coronavirus in the state has increased by 42,473 since Jan. 1, including a record number of active cases, with 57,382 reported.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to previous peaks, including 27,322 active cases on Jan. 9, 2021, and 25,721 on Aug. 14.
According to the state health department, more than 60 percent of those active cases are among unvaccinated individuals.
In Carroll County, the number of positive tests increased by 161, with 4,777 reported, including 202 active cases, while the number of deaths associated with the virus remained at 81. Statewide, the death toll associated with COVID-19 rose by 134 during the same period.
Since February of last year, more than 96 percent of those deaths were among unvaccinated persons.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the rising numbers during his weekly update last week, including news that he had authorized 50 National Guardsmen to help at testing sites around the state and that the state had plans to increase hospital capacity as needed with an “emergency surge” plan.
Hutchinson said staffing would be the main challenge, but the state health department is preparing for the eventuality.
According to the governor, nearly 87 percent of those hospitalized because of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
“Statistically it’s a reminder of the importance of being vaccinated, and the booster shot is a critical part of the vaccination program as we look ahead at Omicron,” Hutchinson said.
On Monday, the number of Arkansans hospitalized because of the virus was reported as 970, with 266 of those patients requiring intensive care. Of those, nearly half — 131 — were on ventilators.
“As we approach 60,000 active cases across Arkansas, we continue to see hospitalizations on the rise,” Hutchinson tweeted Saturday. “Action is being taken to ensure we have adequate bed space for both COVID and non-COVID patients in the weeks ahead.”
Since the pandemic began, hospitalizations in Arkansas have included 1,025 children under the age of 18, including 185 that had been in intensive care. On Monday, the state health department reported 11,368 active cases among children — approximately 19.8 percent of the state total.
The age group with the most active cases was 25-34 year-olds with 11,783, followed by 35-44 with 9,239 and 19-24 with 7,678.
In his final COVID update of 2021, Hutchinson said he had a simple goal going forward.
“My goal is to get through January without overwhelming our hospitals,” Hutchinson said in a Dec. 29 post on Twitter. “To do this we need to increase vaccinations.”
On Jan. 1, the state health department reported that 1,507,248 Arkansans aged 5 and older were fully vaccinated, with another 355,073 listed as partially vaccinated, while 439,288 have received their third-dose booster.
By Monday, the number of fully vaccinated Arkansans had increased by 10,066 to 1,517,314, while the number of those partially vaccinated had increased by 7,559, rising to 362,632. The number of Arkansans who have received a third-dose booster rose by 24,598 to 463,886.
Combined, those numbers represent 66 percent of Arkansans aged 5 and older.
In Carroll County, 29,783 doses of the various vaccines had been administered by Jan. 1. On Monday, 10 days into 2022, that number had increased by a reported 332 doses.
According to the state health department, 47.5 percent of Carroll County residents aged 5 and older have been fully immunized and another 9.5 percent are partially immunized.
Combined, those numbers represent approximately 57 percent of the county’s population that is eligible to receive a vaccine.