Arkansas reported 42 new COVID-19 deaths Monday and its biggest one-day spike in coronavirus hospitalizations since the pandemic began.
The Department of Health reported 81 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, bringing the state’s total to 1,220. The department said 451 of those patients are under intensive care and 250 are on ventilators.
The state’s coronavirus hospitalizations are nearing the high of 1,371 set in January. Gov. Asa Hutchinson pleaded with residents to get vaccinated, noting that nearly all of the hospitalizations the state has seen are among the unvaccinated. Only about 36% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
“Do your part to help,” Hutchinson tweeted. “Hospitals are full & the only remedy is for more Arkansans to be vaccinated.”
The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the state now totals 6,199. The state’s virus cases rose on Monday rose by 844.
Arkansas’ cases and hospitalizations have climbed in recent weeks because of the delta variant of the virus and the state’s low vaccination rate. Arkansas ranks third in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Lawmakers are preparing to meet this week to consider Hutchinson’s request to allow K-12 public schools to require masks. The Republican governor in April signed legislation banning mask mandates by schools and other government agencies.
Hutchinson faces an uphill climb convincing the majority-Republican Legislature to partially roll back the ban, since changing the law before school begins this month will require two-thirds approval of the House and Senate.
The House and Senate on Tuesday will review the emergency Hutchinson declared because of the latest surge in cases. The emergency declaration, which Hutchinson issued last week, will continue unless both chambers of the Legislature vote to end it.
State Rep. Les Eaves told House Speaker Matthew Shepherd over the weekend that he tested positive for COVID-19, House spokeswoman Cecillea Pond-Mayo said. Eaves, a Republican, tweeted that he had been fully vaccinated and was experiencing moderate symptoms.
“Moderate symptoms, vertigo is the worst, no taste or smell is strange,” Eaves tweeted. “No telling how bad it would have been without the vaccine.”
Eaves is among more than two dozen Arkansas state legislators who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.
A federal judge also delayed the bribery trial of former state Sen. Gilbert Baker until at least Tuesday after one of the prosecutors in the case tested positive for COVID-19. U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. ordered all trial participants to get tested and late Monday afternoon said so far everyone had tested negative. He said the court would reconvene Tuesday and decide how to proceed.