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Arkansas Reports 32 New COVID-19 Deaths; Vaccinations Jump

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was shown to reporters at the Arkansas Department of Health on Dec. 14, 2020 just before the first doses were administered in the state.
Michael Hibblen

rkansas reported 32 new COVID-19 deaths Thursday, as the University of Arkansas said it would no longer allow its parking lots to be used for a motorcycle rally that’s drawn complaints over being held during the state’s virus surge.

The Department of Health said the state’s COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began reached 6,806. The state also reported more than 2,300 new coronavirus cases.

Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

The state reported more than 31,000 vaccine doses given, a major spike compared to recent days. A Health Department spokeswoman, however, said some of the doses reported Thursday were data adjustments and did not occur in the previous 24 hours.

The number of people in the state hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped by 43 to 1,325. The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators dropped by two to 352, a day after the state hit a new high.

There are 528 COVID-19 patients in the state’s intensive care units. Thirty of the state’s ICU beds are currently available, though it was unclear how many are equipped for COVID-19 patients. The state on Tuesday ran out of ICU beds for coronavirus patients, the first time that happened since the pandemic began.

The University of Arkansas said it was canceling its agreement for the Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally scheduled to begin next month to use the Fayetteville campus’ parking lots. The move comes a day after Washington Regional Medical Center urged that the event, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, be postponed.

Organizers for the rally did not immediately respond to an email. The voicemail listed for the event’s number was full.

“We have determined and informed the organizers of the BB&BBQ event that we believe it is in the best interest of the community that we terminate the license agreement that would have allowed organizers to use university parking lots for this year’s event,” UA Spokesman Mark Rushing said in an email.

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