As the novel coronavirus sweeps through Arkansas public school districts, Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed concern Tuesday over rising pediatric COVID-19 cases and urged vaccination for eligible Arkansans.
As of Monday, there were 3,684 active cases of COVID-19 in public school districts across Arkansas, and 7,299 had been reported since Aug. 1, according to Arkansas Department of Health data. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said he was alarmed by the rate at which Arkansas pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed since the beginning of July.
Hutchinson presented data showing that cases of COVID-19 among 0- to 18-year olds in 2021 far outpace those of 2020, and that hospitalizations of children in that age group reached an all-time high in August.
“This is something different than parents and schools and everybody has had to deal with in the past,” Hutchinson said. “In fact, 30% of our current active cases are in the age group of 0-18.”
At the press conference, Hutchinson also implored Arkansans eligible for the vaccine to get vaccinated, noting that it is the most effective way to prevent severe illness. He shared data from the ADH revealing that among Arkansans who have been infected with the coronavirus since June 6, 2021, the unvaccinated were three times more likely to be hospitalized and 3.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
“Vaccination is the right call,” Hutchinson said. “It is the healthy call. It is the one that minimizes your risk of hospitalization and death because of COVID.”
Hospitalizations in Arkansas fell to 1,212 Tuesday, down by 45 in a day and 155 in a week, according to the ADH. Statewide, a record 388 patients were on ventilators Tuesday, an increase of 27 from Monday and 45 from Aug. 24.
The ADH reported 22 new deaths from confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. The additional deaths bring the toll in Arkansas to 6,934, up 185 in a week.
Statewide, total active cases (confirmed and probable) fell to 22,422 Tuesday, a decrease of five in a day and 706 in a week, according to the ADH. Total cumulative cases increased by 2,626 Tuesday, for a total of 452,891, according to the ADH. That number rose by 14,426 in a week.
State health officials had administered nearly 2.7 million vaccine doses to Arkansans by Tuesday, according to the ADH, with just over 338,000 people partially immunized and about 1.2 million people fully immunized. Approximately 13,600 new doses were administered between Monday and Tuesday, with over 92,000 administered in a week.
The more than 1.21 million fully vaccinated Arkansans represent about 40.4% of the state’s total population. About 52.4% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 76.6% of Arkansas’ vaccine supply — over 3.5 million doses — had been administered by Tuesday.
Washington County reported 1,823 total active cases (confirmed and probable), and 39,948 total cumulative cases Tuesday. Benton County reported 1,585 total active cases and 37,639 total cumulative cases Tuesday, according to the ADH.
Total active cases fell by 67 in a day and 124 in a week in Washington County. In Benton County, active cases fell by seven in a day and 146 in a week. Total cumulative cases in the two counties increased by 1,307 and 1,051, respectively, in a week.
Active on-campus cases at the UofA rose to 141 during the reporting period of Thursday-Sunday, with at least 52 new cases recorded, according to the Pat Walker Health Center. The health center’s UA COVID-19 dashboard lists 54 new confirmed cases, while the spreadsheet linked to the page lists 52. It is unclear which number is correct.
Of the new cases at the UofA, at least 12 were identified through on-campus testing, and at least 40 were self-reported, according to the dashboard’s spreadsheet. Of active cases, 125 were students, two were graduate assistants, six were faculty members and eight were staff members as of Monday.
During the week of Aug. 23-29, 57 of 388 on-campus tests were positive, generating a positivity rate of 14.7%. On a scale of COVID-19 transmission risk in schools, the CDC rate any school with a positivity rate above 10% in the “highest” category.