MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A grim COVID-19 forecast for Arkansas paints a picture of a raging forest fire that is likely to grow.
The University of Arkansas Medical Sciences projects infections could nearly double by next month and many of the sick will be children.
“COVID 19 is not over in Arkansas. It is, at best, smoldering,” said Dr. Mark Williams, the University of Arkansas’ public health dean. “It’s broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and strength.”
The UAMS expects the number of new daily COVID-19 infections to nearly double next month. The model projects the highest relative growth in cases will be in children.
“I think the concern about the projections would be what is the impact of school and the fact that that’s going on,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
Health officials are recommending children use masks in schools, and vaccinations for those older than 12.
The report projects that more than 7,000 people in Arkansas will have died of COVID-19 by the end of August.
“If that is the case, COVID 19 will have killed more Arkansans than all the wars in the 20th and 21st centuries combined,” Williams said.
Marco McClendon, the mayor of West Memphis, says the time is now for people to get vaccinated and mask up.
“I take it seriously because our babies are at risk now. I just came from a funeral last Saturday of a young 11-year-old who lost her life and that was important to me,” McClendon said. “For me, it’s past the serious point and we can’t wait for it to get to those levels before we make the appropriate decisions. Waiting for the governor is okay, but sometimes you have to step out on your faith and do what’s best for your people.”
For some that means taking steps as they brace for a grim COVID-19 forecast they hope won’t come true.
“We may not be able to avoid all the pain and suffering that will happen in the next weeks, but we certainly can lower it to some degree if you use the common-sense public health tools we already have,” Williams said.
Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported more than 2,200 new cases of the virus.