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Arkansas COVID Deaths Forecast To Top 5,000, Next Phase Of Vaccinations To Begin

Gov. Asa Hutchinson shows a report detailing plans for vaccinating Arkansans while Col. Robert Ator, who will serve as project manager, looks on.
Governor's Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said the state will accelerate vaccine availability for older Arkansans and those in education. The updated vaccine push comes as University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences modeling predicts more than 5,000 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 28.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported that 8,653 more Arkansans received a vaccine shot in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 89,449, which is 39.3% of the number of vaccines that have been sent to Arkansas since Dec. 14 for the state’s distribution plan. Vaccines delivered to the state since Dec. 28 for the federal program to target nursing home residents and staff totals 24,700, with just 3,884 people – or 15.7% – receiving a vaccine.

“I’m not happy with it,” Gov. Hutchinson said of the vaccine pace.

The governor said the state will begin implementing parts of phase 1b of the state’s vaccine plan on Jan. 18 instead of waiting until Jan. 31. Phase 1a includes high priority health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, and K-12 health clinics and nurses. Phase 1b includes those who are 70 or older and frontline essential workers such as teachers and school staff, food and agri workers and any emergency workers not includes in 1a.

Not all those in phase 1b will be included in the earlier availability. Gov. Hutchinson said those older than 70 and those in the education sector, including higher ed and child care, are part of the updated plan. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), there are an estimated 443,000 in the groups eligible to begin receiving vaccinations on Jan. 18.

Gov. Hutchinson said each school, university, and other appropriate organizations will manage the vaccination plan for teachers, faculty and staff, adding that teachers and faculty should work with school leaders on vaccine coordination. Gov. Hutchinson also on Tuesday named retired Col. Robert Ator, who is director of Military Affairs for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, to carry out a vaccine distribution plan that is set to be published Jan. 15. Part of that plan, according to Ator, is to communicate how to best access a vaccine in each county and region. He also said the plan includes adding more pharmacies as distributors, better use of the local health units around the state and create “strike teams” to go to particular areas for vaccine events.


The ADH report showed 3,209 new confirmed and probable cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 259,553. Active confirmed and probable cases rose by 168 to 25,702, and deaths rose by 40 to 4,121.

The report also showed that 50.7% of new cases came from just five – Benton, Garland, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties – of the state’s 75 counties.

Hospitalizations dropped by 17 to 1,354. Monday’s number of 1,371 hospitalizations was a record. The ADH also reported 52 available ICU beds as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, up from 43 on Monday.


The UAMS modeling, which is updated every two weeks, estimates there will be 324,399 cumulative COVID cases and 5,184 deaths by Feb. 28. The death estimate, if it holds, would represent an almost 26% increase in deaths between Jan. 12 and Feb. 28.

The new UAMS estimate predicts that peak COVID cases and deaths will occur later in 2021, and the numbers will be higher than the previous estimate. Following are the mean-case and worst-case estimates.

Mean-case estimates
April 23 (previously April 12)
Active cases: 30,234 (previously 27,868)
Hospitalizations: 1,995 (previously 1,839)
ICU beds: 698 (previously 643)
Ventilators: 244 (previously 225)

Worst-case estimates
April 23 (previously April 12)
Active cases: 62,427 (previously 54,818)
Hospitalizations: 4,120 (previously 3,617)
ICU beds: 1,442 (previously 1,265)
Ventilators: 504 (previously 442)

“Controlling the virus is now more difficult, as any contact has the potential to spread COVID-19 and contact tracing will be less likely to include the source of infection,” noted the UAMS report. “As a consequence of more rapid viral spread, the state’s healthcare system is being challenged as a consequence of these numbers – from treating people who will require intensive medical care to mobilizing the public to continue to practice mitigation behaviors. And, until the vaccines are widely distributed in the state, there is no indication the trends we now see are likely to change.”

Following are other notes from the report.

“The most concerning conclusion we can reach from the 15-day models is hospitalizations are forecast to increase by 12% over the numbers for the period between Dec. 19 and Jan. 3. If this forecast holds true, there will be extreme pressure on the healthcare system in Arkansas. While the state may not exceed its capacity to provide hospital care, the system will nevertheless be severely tested.”

“The models strongly indicate Arkansas is experiencing a difficult time. We have reached new milestones with over 4,000 cases reported in a single day. In the next two weeks, we should expect to experience 15% of Arkansas’ entire COVID-19 caseload since the beginning of the pandemic. We should also expect hospitalizations to increase by 1,517 cases before Jan. 18. This is a 12% increase over the previous two weeks.”

New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests

  • 210,873 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,023 new community cases and 6 reported cases in correctional facilities
  • 48,680 probable cases, up from 47,566 on Monday
  • There are 18,177 active cases, up from 18,168 on Monday
  • There were 6,358 test results provided in the previous 24 hours
  • There were 4,334 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours


  • 3,424, up 32
  • 697 probable COVID-related deaths, up 8

Hospitalizations: 1,354, down 17
Ventilators: 251, down 17

Recovered cases: 189,245

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (405), Sebastian (401), Benton (377), Washington (268), and Garland (177). The counties accounted for 50.7% of the 3,209 new confirmed and probable cases.

As of Monday at 3:30 p.m., there were 22,529,399 U.S. cases and 375,350 deaths. Globally, there were 90,695,701 cases and 1,941,143 deaths.

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