Arkansas remains in ‘red zone’ for new virus cases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A White House panel said in a report released Wednesday that Arkansas remains in the “red zone” for new coronavirus cases as the state set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations for the fourth day in a row.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force said Arkansas last week ranked 24th in the country for new cases per capita. The state’s test positivity ranked 30th, according to the panel. The panel said 88% of the state’s counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission of the virus.

The latest report on Arkansas comes as the panel warned the COVID-19 risk to all Americans is at a historic high.

The report said cases may be reaching a plateau in Arkansas, but said the percentage of nursing homes with at least one COVID-19 positive staff member and positive residents is increasing. The panel again recommended restaurants in the state limit indoor dining capacity to less than 25%, a proposal Gov. Asa Hutchinson has previously rejected.

The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 increased Wednesday by 14 to a new high of 1,088, the Department of Health said. The state’s confirmed and probable virus cases increased by 2,212 to 161,521. The state’s COVID-19 deaths increased by 10 to 2,522. The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested and people can carry the virus but not feel sick.

“I expected the return to higher case numbers today, and all indications are that the number will continue to be high through the week,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “With COVID-19 virus in every area of the state (and nation), we need to double our efforts to follow public health guidelines.”

A state panel also approved a plan to direct $50 million in federal coronavirus funds to hospitals and nursing homes in the state. The proposal backed by the CARES Act Steering Committee would send $30 million in funding toward hospitals and $20 million to nursing homes to use by the end of the month.

Hutchinson on Tuesday said the state would use its trauma system to coordinate coronavirus cases among the state’s hospitals.

About 26% of the state’s 9,016 hospital beds and 7% — or 84 — of its 1,154 intensive care unit beds are available, according to the Department of Health. There are 393 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.


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