LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Governor Asa Hutchinson reported that Arkansas saw a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on Thursday while also noting a slowing of vaccinations in the state.
New data from the Arkansas Department of Health shows 3,549 news cases reported in the last 24 hours, the largest single-day increase since January 6 of this year.
The increase in cases pushed the state’s total case count to 429,110 and jumped the active case count to 24,787. So far for the month of August Arkansas has seen 42,648 new COVID-19 cases.
Hospitalizations also were back up Thursday after seeing drops in numbers the prior two days. There are currently 1,410 COVID-19 patients in the state, an increase of 38 cases. There are 331 COVID-19 patients in the state on ventilators, an increase of five and a new record for the pandemic.
There were 16 new deaths reported in the briefing, bringing the total number of Arkansans lost to the virus to 6,581.
Hutchinson noted that vaccinations had slowed from the 10,000 doses per day rate seen recently, with 8,776 doses administered in the past day. The governor noted that some of the slowdown could be attributed to more students heading back to school.
The new data showed that 4,540 more Arkansans moved to the ranks of the fully immunized, bringing that number to 1,145,097. An additional 354,396 state residents are partially immunized. Hutchinson noted that while the state missed his July 31 deadline, Arkansas has now topped the 50 percent vaccination status, with 51.2 percent of the state’s total population partially vaccinated.
The governor also showed updated statistics showing the impact on being fully vaccinated against the virus. The data shows that since February 1, those who have not been fully immunized represent 90.96 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the state, 92.56 percent of those hospitalized from the virus and 91.46 percent of deaths.
Hutchinson said he appreciated how local school boards and officials were tackling the COVID-19 response as students return to class, noting that of the state’s 262 public school districts, 118 had adopted mask policies. Another 81 districts announced they would not have a policy and 57 have not taken any formal action on the topic.
The governor did add that the state was sending 500,000 high-filtration masks to schools. He also credited the use of masks around the state with all Arkansas school districts remaining open without moving to modified or virtual instruction.
He also noted many of the states universities, including the University of Arkansas system, Arkansas State University, the University of Central Arkansas and Arkansas Tech University, have implemented mask policies as students return to campus.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said that the state is preparing for booster doses for immunocompromised individuals, as well as for other in the future, per new federal guidance. He did note that people should follow the guidance and wait 8 months until seeking the booster shot.
Romero also confirmed that the lambda variant of the virus had been detected in the state, adding that was another good reason for Arkansans to get vaccinated.
Prior to addressing the latest updates on COVID-19, Hutchinson started the news conference discussing the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, saying the first priority should be getting Americans in the country to safety but also helping Afghans who helped the US, even saying he would welcome them to Arkansas.