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Arkansas' vaccinations close to 14,000 Friday as covid case tally rises by nearly 1,200

Illnesses increase by 1,174; 6 more Arkansans lose lives by Andy Davis | December 4, 2021 at 4:58 a.m.
Creshelle Nash, the medical director for health equity and public programs at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, administers a dose of the coronavirus vaccine during a vaccine clinic held Sunday at Jack Stephens Arena on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus..(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Friday by 1,174, continuing a steep upward trend after a slowdown around Thanksgiving.

Already at its highest level in more than two months, the number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with covid-19 rose Friday by one, to 433.

The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by six, to 8,699.

"We're still seeing a surge [in cases]", said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state Department of Health's chief medical officer.

In a tweet on the day's virus numbers, Gov. Asa Hutchinson focused on vaccinations.

"We have almost 14,000 vaccine doses given yesterday," Hutchinson said.

"Of these, 30% (more than 4,000) are first doses and 50% are booster doses. Thanks to all who act on this need because it helps us all."

Except for a spike of 1,226 cases Thursday, the increase Friday in the state's case count was the largest in a single day since Sept. 24.

It followed jumps of 1,044 cases Tuesday and 930 Wednesday.

Before this week, the last time the count had risen by more than 1,000 in one day was Sept. 30.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage »]

The average daily increase over a rolling seven-day period rose Friday to 780, its highest level since the week ending Oct. 1.

With new cases outpacing recoveries and deaths, the number of cases in the state that were considered active rose by 556, to 7,141, the first time since Oct. 10 that the number has been above 7,000.

Rising for the fourth day in a row, the number of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators grew by two, to 80, its highest level since Nov. 3.

After rising a day earlier, however, the number of covid-19 patients in intensive care fell by five, to 171.

The number of intensive-care-unit beds in the state's hospitals that were unoccupied fell by nine, to 59, as a result of an increase in non-covid-19 patients who were in intensive care.

People with covid-19 made up about 16% of all the state's intensive-care-unit patients Friday, down slightly from almost 17% a day earlier.


The rise in cases this week continued an upward trend initially blamed on infections that occurred during Halloween get-togethers and later fueled in part by transmission in schools.

[VACCINE INFO: See the latest information on covid-19 vaccines in Arkansas »]

A drop in testing around Thanksgiving led to lower case numbers last week, but health officials have said gatherings over that holiday likely contributed to the resurgence this week.

"I think it's the delta variant continuing to spread," Dillaha said Friday.

"We have seen this in other countries where they had an initial peak of delta and then it decreased, and then it increased again, so I think we are following that pattern.

"It has often to do with people discontinuing following precautions that were helpful before, such as masking and social distancing, and then of course we still have a high proportion of people in our state that are not immune, and those people are not vaccinated fully, and they are the majority of cases."

While the number of people hospitalized was still down by more than two-thirds from the level it reached during the state's summer surge, Dillaha said this week's large number of new cases could lead to an increase in hospitalizations next week.

Once it arrives in Arkansas, the omicron variant will likely add to the surge, she said.

[How is the coronavirus affecting you in Arkansas? Tell us here »]

"It appears that the omicron variant, in the locations where there's local community spread, is spreading very quickly," Dillaha said.

"I imagine that the effect in Arkansas will be that we'll see community spread established in the state and that it will potentially increase our number of cases.

"What we're waiting to understand, that we don't understand yet, is what is the potential in terms of the severity of disease and the ability of the treatments to impact the course of the disease, as well as whether there will be a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines."

The variant, which was first identified last month in southern Africa, has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A state Health Department spokeswoman said Thursday that the department had been notified of a total of 18 people in Arkansas who had recently been to one of eight countries in southern Africa that are subject to a federal travel restriction that took effect this week in response to the new variant.

However, Dillaha said Friday that the information provided to the department by the CDC included some duplicate names and that the actual number of people who had recently been to one of the countries in the past two weeks is 11.

Through a contractor, the department has been contacting the people, and advising them to get tested and quarantine for at least seven days.

None of the people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday, Dillaha said.


Pulaski County had the most new cases Friday with 114, followed by Benton County with 112 and Washington County with 88.

Comparing their populations, however, the largest number of new cases continued to be in north-central Arkansas.

Marion County, on the Missouri border, had 44 new cases, translating to a rate of 26 per 10,000 residents, the highest in the state.

Baxter, Randolph and Fulton counties, also along Arkansas' northern border, had the next-highest number per 10,000 residents with about 13 each.

Nearby Izard County ranked fifth, with about nine new cases per 10,000 residents.

Among the state's most-populous counties, the number of new cases per 10,000 residents was about three in Pulaski County; four each in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties; and five in Faulkner County.

Statewide, an outsize portion of the new cases were among Arkansans ages 25-44.

The 389 new cases among people in that age group translated to a rate of 50 per 100,000 residents.

The number of new cases per 100,000 residents was 30.6 for Arkansans younger than 18, 43 for those ages 18-24, 39 for those ages 45-64 and 30 for those ages 65 and older.

The number for all age groups combined translated to a rate of 39 per 100,000 residents.


The state's cumulative count of cases rose Friday to 532,168.

Dillaha said only one of the deaths reported Friday happened within the past month. Of the others, one happened in August and four occurred in October.

She said 9.2% of the state's coronavirus tests were positive over the seven-day span ending Thursday, up from the 8.7% that were initially reported for the week ending Wednesday.

Hutchinson has said he wants to keep the percentage below 10%.

The number of people who have ever been hospitalized in the state with covid-19 grew by 28, to 28,521.

The number of the state's virus patients who have ever been on ventilators with covid-19 rose by three, to 3,002.


Meanwhile, at 13,948, the increase in the Health Department's tally of vaccine doses that had been administered was almost 12 times that of a week earlier, just after Thanksgiving.

Booster shots made up 49% of the most recent increase.

The count of first doses rose by 4,181, up from an increase of just 539 first doses a week earlier.

The average number of total doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period rose to 8,990, which was up by more than 400 from the average a week earlier.

Rising to 2,816, however, the average for first doses was still down from more than 3,100 a day the previous week.

According to the CDC, 60.8% of Arkansans had received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday, up from 60.7% a day earlier.

The percentage who had been fully vaccinated rose from 49.5% as of Thursday to 49.6%.

Of those who had been fully vaccinated, 22.2% had received booster doses as of Friday, up from 21.8% a day earlier.

Among children ages 5-11, who became eligible for a low-dose version of the Pfizer vaccine last month, the number who had received at least one dose rose by 890, to 28,650, representing about 10.6% of the children in that age group.

Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas continued to rank 37th in the percentage of its residents of all ages who had received at least one dose, and 44th, ahead of North Dakota, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho, in the percentage who were fully vaccinated.

Nationally, 70.7% of people had received at least one dose, and 59.7% were fully vaccinated.

Of the fully vaccinated population nationally, 22.2% had received booster doses.

Print Headline: State virus cases, hospitalizations still on upswing


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