Arkansas' death toll from the coronavirus rose by 32 on Wednesday as the state's new cases and number of hospitalized patients continued to decline.
After rising the previous two days, the number of covid-19 patients who were on ventilators also fell, dropping by 11, to 69.
While down by more than two-thirds from its peak in January during the surge of infections from the omicron variant, the number of patients on breathing machines Wednesday remained above the recent low of 60 it reached on Sunday.
The state's count of cases rose by 559, which was smaller by 134 than the increase a day earlier and just over half the number that were added the previous Wednesday.
Already at its lowest level since Dec. 5, the number hospitalized fell by 17, to 432, its fifth straight daily decline.
"I think we're continuing to move in a downward direction, which is what we want," said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state Department of Health's chief medical officer.
After peaking at an all-time high of 1,819 on Jan. 26, the number hospitalized has fallen every day except two: Jan. 31, when it rose by 17, and Friday, when it rose by four.
The increase in deaths brought the state's toll from the pandemic, as tracked by the Health Department, to 10,611.
It followed a spike of 55 deaths on Tuesday, which was the largest one-day rise in more than a year.
The average daily increase in deaths over a rolling seven-day period remained Wednesday at about 39.
That's above the peak it reached over the summer, during a surge of infections from the delta variant, but still down from a recent high of about 43 a day the week ending Feb. 17.
Dillaha said 12 of the deaths reported Wednesday happened in January, and the rest occurred within the past month.
Because of reporting delays and the amount of time it can take for someone to succumb to complications from covid-19 after being infected, health officials have said the number deaths reported each day in Arkansas is likely to remain high for some time even as the state's new case numbers decline.
"I think we'll see it a bit longer," Dillaha said of the elevated number of deaths reported each day.
ACTIVE CASES FALL
Dropping for the second day in a row, the number of covid-19 patients who were in intensive care fell Wednesday by seven, to 137.
The average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period fell to 573, the first time it had been below 600 since the week ending Dec. 1.
With recoveries and deaths outpacing new cases, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 425, to 4,462, the smallest total since Nov. 9.
In another sign of the slowing spread of the virus, Dillaha said just 4.6% of the state's coronavirus tests were positive over the seven-day span ending Tuesday, down from the 5.2% that was initially reported for the week ending Monday and an all-time high of more than 37% the week ending Jan. 18.
It was the first time since June 2021 the percentage over a seven-day span had been below 5%.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he wants to keep the percentage below 10%.
At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children's had nine covid-19 patients on Wednesday, down from 11 on Monday, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.
Over the same period, however, the number of patients at the two hospitals who were on ventilators rose from three to four.
DeMillo said more than half the nine patients were at least 5 years old, making them eligible for vaccination, but only one had been fully immunized.
CASES BY COUNTY
Washington County had the most new cases, 71, on Wednesday, followed by Garland and Pulaski counties, which each had 63.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 821,236.
Meanwhile, the Health Department's tally of vaccine doses that had been administered rose by 1,970, which was smaller by 25 than the daily increase a week earlier.
Booster shots made up about 44% of the most recent increase.
The count of first doses rose by 615, which was down by 42 from the increase in first doses a week earlier.
Already at its lowest level since the Health Department started regularly releasing daily vaccination numbers in January 2021, the average number of total doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to 1,449.
The average for first doses, also already at a record low, fell to 470.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65.8% of Arkansans had received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday, up from 65.7% a day earlier.
The percentage of Arkansans who had been fully vaccinated remained at 53.5%.
Of those fully vaccinated, the percentage who had received a booster dose remained at 37.8%.
Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas continued to rank 37th in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one dose and 46th, ahead of Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming and Alabama, in the percentage who had been fully vaccinated.
Nationally, 76.4% of people had received at least one dose, and 65% were fully vaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated population nationally, 43.8% had received a booster dose.