New COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continue to climb and officials say the rapdily spreading delta variant and people not being vaccinated is the key reason why. The Department of Health reported 479 new cases Tuesday, along with eight additional deaths from COVID-19.
At his weekly press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged Arkansans to take safety measures when participating in 4th of July activities to stop the spread of the virus.
“We have the delta variant predominant, moving into Arkansas, and we have to take that very seriously," Hutchinson said. "It is more contagious, it has more consequences in terms of health, and so take care of yourself and follow the guidelines which really is social distancing, wearing a mask if you have not been vaccinated.”
According to the department, 90.5% of current active cases are people who have not been fully immunized. Since January 26, there have been 3,765 Arkansans hospitalized and 98.3% of those were not immunized.
Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr. Cam Patterson, said the state is going in the wrong direction as cases of the delta variant continue to increase.
“My anticipation is that within a week or two, the delta variant will be over half of the cases of COVID-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” Patterson said.
UAMS is seeing a substantial increase in the number of patients who are requiring mechanical ventilation, he said. That number has tripled over the past eight weeks in the state, requiring the hospital to reopen COVID-19 units because of the escalation in new patients. Patterson said those people are sicker and younger than those suffering from the virus a year ago because of the variant.
“We’ve had patients in their 20s who’ve required heart-lung bypass to manage their COVID-19 infections,” Patterson said.
The delta variant is becoming more prominent in the state and has more medical consequences.
“This is not losing your sense of smell and a bad case of flu, this is immediately coming into the hospital and being put on a ventilator,” Patterson said. “We’re seeing more and more patients with no other medical issues who are in their 40s, their 30s, even their 20s who are being severely affected by the delta variant.”
Patterson said if this trend continues, it appears the state could be in the beginning of the third surge of COVID-19. He said another concern is that frontline health care workers will leave their jobs because they have been working long hours under dangerous conditions for more than a year.