Declining COVID cases has Arkansas health officials optimistic
Cases of COVID-19 continue falling in Arkansas, dropping to levels not seen in nearly two years.
The state Department of Health reported Monday that the number of known active cases fell by 117 since Sunday, with 1,294 people who were symptomatic or contagious. On the same day last month, the state had more than four times that amount.
Hospitalizations increased by four, with 119 people being treated statewide. That's 42 fewer than the previous Monday and 346 fewer since the same day in February.
Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said, “It’s a happy time to see the cases be so low. We are watching the situation because, as before, we thought that we were on the other side of the pandemic and then a new variant arose.”
While watching for new variants, she said the only variant in the state that has been sequenced recently is the omicron variant. That has her optimistic that levels will remain low for a while.
Dillaha said the omicron variant produced a relatively low number of people who became severely sick, but was highly infectious. That compares to the delta variant, which was less infectious but caused worse symptoms.
“We don’t want a combination of infectiousness and high proportionate people with severe disease,” said Dillaha, “So we are looking at that. At this point, we don’t have much to say other than the fact that we are in the middle of looking at it.”
One additional death was reported Monday, following one on Sunday, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 11,211. On the same day a month ago, the Department of Health said there were 27 deaths. Most days during February involved several dozen deaths being reported each day.
“The southern part of the U.S. has had a higher rate of deaths, including Arkansas. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other illness that put people at higher risks for severe COVID and death as a result,” said Dillaha
She is encouraging unvaccinated people to take advantage of the lull of cases as it enables them to wait the full eight-week period between doses. Waiting for the full period helps prevent side effects and improves the effectiveness of the vaccine, Dillaha said.