Governor give update on cases and vaccinations
The following statistics were shared at the governor’s weekly COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) website:
- 189,198 total cases, up 2,141 from Monday.
- 20,690 total active cases, down one from Monday.
- 3,016 total deaths, up 26 from Monday.
- 1,070 cases requiring hospitalization, up 20 from Monday.
- 190 cases requiring a ventilator, up 10 from Monday.
- 4,682 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 67 from Monday.
- 493 active cases in Garland County, down four from Monday.
- 4,056 recoveries in Garland County.
- 131 deaths in Garland County, up one from Monday.
In the past 24 hours, the number of positive PCR tests added in Arkansas was 1,236, with 1,224 from the community and 12 from correctional facilities. There were 905 positive antigen results from a total of 3,872 antigen tests in the past 24 hours. The number of PCR tests received in the past 24 hours was 8,297. Hutchinson said that the 905 positive antigen results is the highest one-day total to date.
Hutchinson said the rate of positivity is too high, as it is staying above 10%. The growth rate of new COVID-19 cases from Dec. 6 – 12 by public health region shows that the Central Region has the highest percentages at 9.5%, followed by the Southeast Region at 8.1% and then closely by each of the other regions. The growth rate during the same time by age group has the 0-17 age group at the highest at 9.1%, followed by the 65-and-older group at 8.4%, to which the governor said, “This is just a reminder that every age group can carry the virus.” A graph of the daily average of COVID-19 deaths by month, which the governor described as “startling,” showed a continuing increase with a 10.4 per day in July, 14.4 in September, 18 in October and 22.1 in November.
With regards to the arrival of the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, Dec. 14, Hutchinson said it was delivered at 8:10 a.m. and the first vaccination was given that afternoon. On Friday, the governor expects to receive notice on the next Pfizer vaccine shipment and timeline for receipt. He said it will be a reoccurring process each Friday for the state receive notice for the upcoming week’s shipment information. He said that the goal is to get the healthcare workers, emergency responders and residents and staff of long-term care facilities vaccinated as soon as possible before moving to additional priorities then the general public.
Sam Lynd, CEO of Northeast Arkansas Baptist Hospital in Jonesboro, shared that the hospitals in his region “remain busy and full.” In his hospital, around 25% of in-patients are COVID positive, and there are only around 15 ICU beds available in the Northeast Region. “Our ICU units remain full, and for each one that we are able to move out of the unit, there is certainly one awaiting to be admitted. So while we’re very excited about what the last 24 hours means (with the first vaccinations), for our foreseeable future things remain difficult for our hospitals across our state and region as well.” He also shared that his hospital is among those in the state offering monoclonal antibodies as an outpatient, early intervention treatment to high-risk patients. Over the past few weeks, they have been able to administer this new treatment to between 16-20 patients each day to more than 100 patients, none of which have been hospitalized so far for COVID-related reasons.
Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said that in addition to the Pfizer vaccine, the state will most likely have a similar vaccine coming from Moderna once its review is complete and if it is approved. He reiterated that safety has never been compromised in the development of these vaccines. The vaccines can cause fever, swelling in the arm and soreness, but he said that does not mean they are not safe. He also reiterated that the monoclonal antibody treatment is available statewide and needs to be received by the COVID-positive patient early in the infection period. Lastly, he echoed the fact that the pandemic is not under control and “you should reassess your holiday plans this year.” He said that the CDC has recommended no non-essential travel this year, even within the state.
Secretary of Education Johnny Key said that the number of on-site instruction modifications so far following the Thanksgiving holiday is less than what followed Halloween. There were 35 COVID-19 modifications last week, and there have been five so far this week. There are currently 48 active modifications, with 343 that have expired.
Hutchinson announced that the TraumaCom upgrade to include COVID-19 patients, or COVIDComm, will be implemented tomorrow. The system will be used anytime a COVID-positive patient is in a hospital that is unable to care for the patient. It will determine the closest, most appropriate facility available to care for the patient, and will facilitate the physician-to-physician hand-off of the patient.