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COVID hospitalizations in Arkansas decline after setting records this week

A nurse assists Dr. Bob Hopkins in putting on protective gear at a UAMS drive thru COVID testing site on July 23, 2020 at the Little Rock hospital.
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
A nurse assists Dr. Bob Hopkins in putting on protective gear at a UAMS drive thru COVID testing site on July 23, 2020 at the Little Rock hospital.

After setting a record Wednesday for the number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with COVID-19, the state reported a decline of 31 patients on Thursday. The Department of Health said 1,788 people were being treated statewide.

The number of active cases also declined, as recoveries outpaced new infections, the department said. 6,016 new cases were reported, with the number of active cases dropping by 4,539 people. There were also 22 additional deaths.

On Twitter, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Our hospitals across the state are working tirelessly to ensure space is available for all who need it.”

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences was treating 95 COVID patients on Thursday, said spokesperson Leslie Taylor. That’s down from an all-time high of 99 on Tuesday, but she said the overall trend this month is straining the facility.

“The numbers are definitely going in the wrong direction,” Taylor said in an interview with KUAR News. The hospital had 80 patents at the beginning of the month.

On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council will consider giving final approval to a request by Hutchinson to use $4.7 million to create 27 additional beds at UAMS. On Monday, a steering committee gave its approval to use the federal funds from the American Rescue Plan for the expansion.

Taylor said the additional beds will do a lot to help UAMS.

“They’re very important,” she said. “We have been using other areas where we could convert to negative pressure rooms to make up for the overflow.”

The funding would bring the number of beds for COVID patients up to 109, Taylor said. UAMS has the capability to go up to 139 beds in a crisis, but lacks staffing.

Earlier this month, Hutchinson deployed dozens of National Guard troops to help distribute at-home test kits and provide assistance at hospitals around the state. UAMS has had 12 members helping there, and Taylor said after requesting a one-week extension, approval was granted to keep them through the first week of February.

Michael Hibblen is News Director of UA Little Rock Public Radio. A 33-year radio veteran, he oversees the KUAR News staff, plans coverage and edits stories while also anchoring and reporting for the station.