The number of covid-19 patients in Arkansas hospitals and on ventilators fell for the second day in a row Friday, while the number of people in intensive care fell for the fourth day in a row.
The number of cases in the state, however, rose by 2,866, an increase of more than 450 greater than the previous Friday.
The death toll from the virus, as tracked by the state’s health ministry, increased by 30, to 6,836.
Meanwhile, a health ministry report released on Friday showed that the number of active cases among students and public school employees rose by more than 1,200, to 3,352, between Monday and Thursday, during which for most students was the second week of the new school year.
Since the start of the school year for most public schools on August 16, the number of active cases among students and employees has more than doubled.[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]
On Thursday it was approaching the peak it had reached over the past winter.
In a tweet, Gov. Asa Hutchinson highlighted the total number of active cases and the increase in vaccine doses that providers said they administered as encouraging indicators.
“Our new cases today are higher, but our active cases have declined since last week,” Hutchinson said. “Over 11,000 doses given is a good number, but we need to keep increasing. Find a vaccination spot near you this weekend to protect yourself against the Delta variant.”
After dropping 43 on Thursday, the number of covid-19 patients in Arkansas hospitals fell by one, to 1,324.
Friday’s count was down 135 from its August 16 high and 47 below its January peak during the state’s winter surge.
To a record 354 two days earlier, the number of covid-19 patients who were on ventilators fell from four Friday to 348.
[EMAIL SIGNUP: Form not appearing above? Click here to subscribe to updates on the coronavirus » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/email/]
The number of people in intensive care, which reached an all-time high of 558 on Monday, fell from 21 to 507.
The number of unoccupied intensive care beds statewide, however, fell from six, to 24, due to an increase in the number of non-covid-19 patients who were in intensive care.
Covid-19 patients made up about 47% of all patients who were in intensive care on Friday, up from 49% a day earlier.
The number of covid-19 patients on ventilators and the number in intensive care remained well above their January peaks, which were 268 for the number on ventilators and 458 for the number in intensive care.
The state’s average daily increase in the number of cases over a continuous seven-day period rose to 2,132, which was still down from the nearly seven-month high of 2,351 as the average reached the week ending August 7th.[VACCINE INFO: See the latest information on covid-19 vaccines in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/vaccineinfo/]
With new cases exceeding recoveries, the number of cases considered active increased by 653, to 24,228.
Friday’s total, however, was 750 lower than the week before, and down from a seven-month high of 25,735 the number reached on August 15.
EXPANSION IN THE WORKS
At its 11 state hospitals, Baptist Health had 286 covid-19 patients, one more than a day earlier, spokeswoman Cara Wade said.
Patients on Friday included 126 in intensive care and 93 on ventilators.
She said 87% of the 286 patients had not been vaccinated.
The health care system opened two more intensive care unit beds at its Fort Smith hospital on Thursday, and it continued work on Friday to open a total of 16 more in Fort Smith and North Little Rock.
“Staff are essential to being able to open these beds in a timely manner,” Wade said in an email.
At its Little Rock and Springdale hospitals, Arkansas Children’s had 27 covid-19 patients, one more than a day earlier, spokeswoman Nicole Huddleston said.
She said on Friday that nine of the patients were in intensive care, six of them on ventilators.[How is the coronavirus affecting you in Arkansas? Tell us here » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/form/]
None of the patients had been vaccinated, although 12 of them were at least 12 years old, making them eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
Between Monday and Thursday, the number of districts and charter school systems with at least five active cases increased by 44, to 173, according to health ministry reports.
The Bentonville School District again recorded the highest number of active cases, 125, on Thursday, an increase from the 88 reported on Monday.
Springdale, the state’s largest school district, had 124 active cases as of Thursday, up from 59 earlier in the week.
The Rogers School District had 114 active cases, up from 74.
Cabot had 107 active cases, up from 59 on Monday.
Fort Smith had 104 active cases, up from 70 on Monday.
Little Rock District had 75, up from 56.
In addition, the Jonesboro district had 60 active cases as of Thursday.
Conway and Marion each had 56 active cases; Bryant, 41; Pulaski County Special, 36; Mountain house, 30; eStem, 22; KIPP Delta, 20; Lisa Academy, 16 years old; Pine Bluff, 11; and El Dorado, new.
Little Rock and Marion school districts are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that prohibits government agencies, including school districts, from requiring staff and students to wear masks .
A Pulaski County circuit judge has suspended the application of Law 1002 of 2021 until the trial is decided.
Elsewhere in the state, at least two lawsuits have been filed challenging the authority of local school boards to require masks to be worn. In one of the cases, a Lonoke County circuit judge on Friday rejected a request to temporarily stop Cabot schools from requiring masks.[Interactive Arkansas map not showing up above? Click here to see it: arkansasonline.com/arvirus]
In total, there have been 6,450 cumulative cases among elementary and secondary students and employees since August 1.
Different individual school districts have chosen to post covid case numbers on their websites on a daily basis.
The Little Rock School District, for example, reported eight positive cases of covid-19 and 57 people quarantined for a 24-hour period starting at 3 p.m. Thursday and ending at 3 p.m. Friday.
Those figures included one positive case and 18 people quarantined at Fulbright Elementary.
Kimberly Mundell, spokesperson for the State Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary Education Division, said no schools had reported new transitions to virtual education on Friday in response to virus cases or quarantines.
Among the state’s private elementary and secondary schools, there were a total of 66 active cases on Thursday, up from 49 earlier in the week.
Only St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Conway with 14 cases and Little Rock Christian Academy with 7 cases were individually listed.
School systems with fewer than five cases are not listed individually to protect patient identities, but their covid-19 numbers are included in the overall totals.
A total of 404 active cases were reported among active college and university cases on Thursday, up from 247 active cases on Monday.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville tops the list with 82 active cases, double the 37 cases as of Monday. The University of Central Arkansas has recorded 43 cases, up from 19 earlier in the week.
A total of 24 campuses had five or more active cases as of Thursday, according to the Department of Health.
Dr Jennifer Dillaha, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said the highly transmissible delta variant is likely one of the main reasons for the sharp increase in cases in public schools.
Also, she said, “you have a population of kids too young to be vaccinated or kids 12 and older who haven’t been vaccinated yet, then we have a situation in the state. where the requirement to wear masks in school is not uniformly enforced. “
She said the start of the school year was one of the reasons she was concerned the increase in Arkansas cases would start to escalate again after reaching a high plateau in recent weeks.
Because the delta variant is so much more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain, it’s more likely to spread in schools, as well as during extracurricular activities, she said.
“Last year the trend was for community cases to spread to schools,” said Dillaha.
“I think this year it will probably be both ways.”
She said 14% of coronavirus tests statewide were positive in the seven-day period ending Thursday, down slightly from the 14.2% initially reported for the week ending Wednesday.
Of the deaths reported on Friday, 24 occurred in the past month and the rest were earlier in July.
Friday’s rankings ranked Arkansas as having the ninth highest number of new cases per capita in the country in a period of seven consecutive days, down from the eighth a day earlier.
Mississippi continued to have the highest rate. It was followed Friday by Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Wyoming.
New deaths per capita in Arkansas continued to be the second highest after Louisiana.
In Arkansas, Washington County recorded the highest number of new cases on Friday, 296, followed by Pulaski County, which had 276, and Benton County, which had 201.
The state’s cumulative number of cases has risen to 446,630.
The number of people who have previously been hospitalized in the state with confirmed infections increased by 65, to 21,041.
The number of people who have ever been on a ventilator increased by 11 to 2,162.
VACCINATION AT THE TOP
The increase in vaccine doses administered, including the second and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, was more than 2,000 higher than a week earlier.
The average daily increase in the number of doses given each day over a rolling seven-day period rose to 13,361, its highest level since May 3.
Friday’s average, however, included an increase of 31,544 doses on Thursday which Dillaha said included “data cleansing” and postponement of doses administered earlier.
According to the CDC, the number of Arkansans who received at least one dose of the vaccine increased by 6,056, to 1,591,251, representing about 52.7% of the state’s population.
The number of people fully immunized increased by 6,623 to 1,232,385, or about 40.8% of the population.
The Department of Health’s online coronavirus dashboard reported that the number of people who received a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, as allowed for some people with weakened immune systems, increased by 512, to reach 9 103.
Among states and the District of Columbia, Arkansas was roughly tied with Oklahoma for having the 36th highest percentage of its residents who received at least one dose of the vaccine.
It ranked No. 46, ahead of West Virginia, Idaho, Wyoming, Mississippi and Alabama, in the percentage of its residents who have been fully vaccinated.
Nationally, 61.3% of people had received at least one dose and 52% were fully immunized.