Arkansas reached another new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state on Monday as thousands of students headed back to school.
The state reported 46 new virus hospitalizations, bringing its total COVID-19 patients to 1,459. That surpasses the record high the state reached last week. The state’s COVID-19 deaths increased by 31.
Arkansas’ virus cases and hospitalizations have been skyrocketing in recent weeks because of the ultra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The hospitalizations spiked as the school year began for thousands of students, most of whom will be required to wear a mask following moves by dozens of districts after a judge blocked the state’s mask mandate.
At least 70 public school districts and charter schools have imposed mask requirements after a judge temporarily blocked the law. The requirements will cover at least half of the state’s 473,000 public school students. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday she’s appealing the ruling against the mandate ban.
“As many children across Arkansas head back to school today, I am praying for a safe and productive year,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has said he regrets signing the ban into law, tweeted Monday. The governor has said he agreed with the judge’s decision.
There are only 22 intensive care unit beds available in the state, the Department of Health said. There are 553 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state and 323 on ventilators.