With Arkansas' new coronavirus cases and number of hospitalized covid-19 patients continuing to decline from the levels they reached during a surge of infections from the omicron variant, the number of the state's virus patients who were in intensive care fell below 100 on Wednesday for the first time since June.
The state's death toll from the virus, however, rose by 39, the largest one-day increase in almost a week.
"It's still part of that overall trend of having our deaths a little higher," Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state Department of Health's chief medical officer, said.
The increase on Wednesday brought the state's death toll to 10,799.
Dillaha said 22 of the deaths reported Wednesday happened within the past month.
Of the others, 10 happened in January and seven occurred in early February.
The average number of deaths reported each day over a rolling seven-day period rose slightly, from about 26 as of Tuesday to about 27.
That was still down from a recent high of about 43 a day in mid-February and a peak of 33 a day during a surge of infections from the delta variant last summer.
Because of reporting delays and the amount of time it can take 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.
In contrast to sharper week-to-week declines in new cases in recent days, the state's case count rose Wednesday by 543, which was smaller by only 16 than the one the previous Wednesday and larger by 149 than the increase on Tuesday.
"I think it's possible that as we reach our low point after the surge, that the downward trend would slow down, that the drop won't be as steep," Dillaha said.
Declining for the fifth straight day, the number of covid-19 patients in the state's hospitals fell by seven, to 307, its lowest level since Nov. 20.
After falling a day earlier to its lowest level since June 16, the number of virus patients ventilators remained at 51.
Dropping for the second day in a row, the number who were in intensive care fell by 20, to 93, the smallest number since June 10.
Already at its lowest level since the week ending Nov. 10, the average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period fell slightly, to 462.
With recoveries and deaths outpacing new cases, the number of cases in the state that were considered active fell by 167, to 2,542, the smallest total since June 21.
CASES BY COUNTY
Craighead County had the most new cases, 84, on Wednesday, followed by Pulaski County with 37 and Crittenden County with 36.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 824,469.
The Health Department's tally of vaccine doses that had been administered rose by 1,764, which was smaller by more than 200 than the daily increase a week earlier.
Booster shots made up about 35% of the most recent increase.
The count of first doses rose by 681, which was larger by 66 than the increase in first doses a week earlier.
Already at its lowest level since the Health Department started regularly releasing vaccination numbers in January 2021, the average number of total doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell Wednesday to 1,368.
After falling to a record low a day earlier, the average for first doses rose to 433.
"I am concerned that not enough people are up to date on their vaccines," Dillaha said.
"We're having to give some serious thought as to what we can do in Arkansas to encourage people to go ahead and get vaccinated."
She said the Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition, a nonprofit based in Little Rock, has been researching "what kinds of things people feel they need to know in order to make an informed decision."
"I think from what they learn, we'll be able to help target the information that we provide," she said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65.9% of Arkansans had received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday, a percentage that hadn't changed since Monday.
The percentage who had been fully vaccinated rose from 53.6% as of Tuesday to 53.7%.
Of those who were fully vaccinated, 38.1% had received a booster dose as of Wednesday, up from 38% a day earlier.
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, 76.6% of people had received at least one dose as of Wednesday, and 65.2% were fully vaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated population nationally, 44.1% had received a booster dose.