New COVID graphic

Active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations plummeted Wednesday as the spread of the delta variant continues to slow significantly since its peak in August.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at his weekly press briefing Wednesday that he would neither sign nor veto two bills that will introduce additional opt-out rights for employees of companies requiring vaccination or regular negative COVID-19 tests, in response to the private sector mandate President Joe Biden issued last month. Hutchinson thinks the bills create distrust and additional hesitancy around the vaccines, he said.

“Let me emphasize that I disagree with the federal mandate on vaccinations,” Hutchinson said. “I am opposed to the mandate by the Biden administration, but the solution is not to place additional mandates on employers at the state government level. The solution is not to place the employers in a squeeze play between the federal government and state government.” 

Hutchinson also presented a graph showing the 12- to 18-year-old age group vaccination rate over time. After the vaccine became available to 12-15-year-olds, the rate climbed steadily, but it has tapered off over the past couple months, sitting at just under 40%.

“That, obviously, is not what we want to see,” Hutchinson said. “We want to continue to emphasize the opportunity to be vaccinated for our adolescents, and whenever you look at quarantines at school, the easiest answer for avoiding quarantine at school is to get vaccinated. It’s not complicated.”

Statewide, total active cases of COVID-19 (confirmed and probable) fell to 6,702 Wednesday, a decrease of 104 in a day and 1,177 in a week, according to Arkansas Department of Health data. Total cumulative cases increased by 694 Wednesday, for a total of 504,516. That number rose by 4,630 in a week.

The ADH reported 19 new deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday. The additional deaths bring the toll in Arkansas to 8,166, up 385 in a week. The state recorded 289 deaths Sunday, but as Hutchinson said in a tweet, the jump reflected a correction of data from the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations in Arkansas dropped to 531 Wednesday, down six in a day and 93 in a week, according to the ADH. Statewide, 163 patients were on ventilators Wednesday, an increase of three from Tuesday and a decrease of 10 from Oct. 6.

State health officials had administered over 3 million vaccine doses to Arkansans by Wednesday, according to the ADH, with 286,278 people partially immunized and over 1.36 million people fully immunized. Almost 7,000 new doses, about half of which Hutchinson said were booster shots or third doses, were administered between Tuesday and Wednesday, with nearly 45,000 administered in a week.

The more than 1.36 million fully vaccinated Arkansans represent 53.4% of the state’s total vaccine-eligible population. Almost two-thirds of Americans 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seventy-seven percent of Arkansas’ vaccine supply — over 3.91 million doses — had been administered by Wednesday.

Washington County officials reported 501 total active cases and 44,004 total cumulative cases Wednesday. Benton County reported 510 total active cases and 41,414 total cumulative cases Wednesday, according to the ADH.

Total active cases rose by seven in a day and fell by 75 in a week in Washington County. In Benton County, active cases fell by 25 in a day and 64 in a week. Total cumulative cases in the two counties increased by 339 and 355, respectively, in a week.

Active COVID-19 cases on the UA campus fell to 20, a decrease of 18, while total cases rose by five between the reporting period of Wednesday-Thursday and the reporting period of Friday-Sunday, according to the Pat Walker Health Center COVID-19 Dashboard. Of current active cases, 17 are students, two are staff and one is a graduate assistant.

From Friday to Sunday, university officials conducted 89 tests, one of which was positive. Four additional cases were self-reported.

During the week of Oct. 4-10, eight of 432 on-campus tests were positive, for a positivity rate of 1.85%. The week saw 17 total new cases and a peak of 43 active cases during the Monday-Tuesday reporting period.

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