New COVID graphic

Following a series of record-high daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, members of the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee submitted a request Monday to approve using emergency funds to increase hospital capacity.

The requested $4.7 million of Arkansas’ ARPA funding would allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to staff 20 additional medical beds and seven ICU beds, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday in his weekly media briefing.

“It’s still very strained in the hospitals,” Hutchinson said. “There is a need to bring on additional hospital beds right now.”

The governor urged the lawmakers of the Arkansas General Assembly to grant final approval to the funds so the beds can be available as soon as possible.

“There is that urgency. Even though we hope that hospitalizations will decline, the number is still very high,” Hutchinson said.

Statewide, active COVID-19 cases fell by 5,346 between Tuesday and Wednesday and 11,152 in a week, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Total cumulative cases increased by 6,561 Wednesday, for a total of 756,385. That number rose by 53,902 in a week.

The ADH reported 18 new deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday. The additional deaths bring the toll in Arkansas to 9,574, up 112 in a week.

Hospitalizations in Arkansas rose to 1,819 Wednesday, up by 34 in a day and 219 in a week, according to the ADH. Statewide, 223 patients were on ventilators Wednesday, a decrease of 10 from Tuesday but an increase of 31 from Jan. 19.

State health officials had administered more than 3.86 million vaccine doses to Arkansans by Wednesday, according to the ADH, with 372,596 people partially immunized and almost 1.54 million people fully immunized. Officials administered 4,854 new doses — including third and booster doses — between Tuesday and Wednesday, with 32,846 administered in a week.

The nearly 1.54 million fully vaccinated Arkansans represent 54% of the state’s 5-and-up population. Almost 68% of Americans 5 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seventy-nine percent of Arkansas’ vaccine supply — over 4.9 million doses — had been administered by Wednesday.

Washington County officials reported 6,618 active COVID-19 cases Wednesday. Benton County officials reported 6,917 active cases, according to the ADH. Total cumulative cases in the two counties increased by 4,063 and 4,600, respectively, in a week.

There were 207 active COVID-19 cases recorded on the UA campus during the Jan. 17-23 reporting period, according to the Pat Walker Health Center COVID-19 Dashboard. Of the active cases, 164 were students, three were graduate assistants, 11 were faculty, and three were not affiliated with the UofA.

PWHC officials recorded at least 352 new cases last week, 198 of which were self-reported and 154 of which were identified through on-campus testing. The data source linked to the dashboard lists 352 active cases while the dashboard lists 353. It is unclear which is accurate. An additional 320 on-campus tests came back negative, for a weekly positivity rate of 32.5%.

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