New And Active COVID Cases Continue To Decline; UAMS Model Warns Of New Variants

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters Tuesday during his weekly press briefing on the pandemic.
Credit Governor's Office / YouTube

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences COVID-19 modeling update suggests virus variants could result in more hospitalizations and deaths. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero is not convinced the modeling is correct, and said the state’s focus will remain on wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining distance and getting vaccines distributed as fast as possible.

The Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,457 new COVID-19 cases, below the 1,510 reported on the previous Tuesday. Total testing in the past 24 hours was 8,323, above the 7,223 reported the previous Tuesday.

New confirmed and probable cases pushed the cumulative total to 308,848. Active confirmed and probable cases fell by 422 to 14,898. Deaths rose by 42 to 5,148. Hospitalizations fell by 2 to 775, well below the 869 on the previous Tuesday. The ADH also reported 105 available ICU beds as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, down from 120 on Monday.

The state has received 601,875 vaccines since federal distribution began Dec. 14, including 40,725 in the past 24 hours. Vaccines administered in the previous 24 hours rose by 12,588 to 392,212, or 65.2% of vaccines received. The federal program in which CVS and Walgreens is managing vaccinations in nursing homes and other long term care facilities has received 49,400 vaccines since Dec. 28. Vaccines administered in the past 24 hours rose by 967 to 20,904, or 42.3% of vaccines received.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson praised the efforts of those who are helping to get “vaccinations out quickly,” adding that 100% of long-term care facilities have at least one vaccination clinic. He also said 12.8% of the Arkansas population is vaccinated, but more of the population at least 70 years old must be vaccinated before opening up vaccines to other demographics.

He also said 12 community health centers in Arkansas, with 120 clinics primarily in underserved and rural areas of the state, will soon receive vaccines in a new federal effort. Gov. Hutchinson said state officials do not yet know how many vaccines will be received or when.

UPDATED UAMS COVID-19 MODEL

New UAMS modeling, which is updated every two weeks, predicts the state will have 392,212 cumulative probable and confirmed cases by March 31. The modeling also predicts 5,919 total deaths by March 31.

The report authors also express concern about the decline in cases being a lull before a rise in new cases caused by virus variants that make the disease more transmissible and deadly.

“We cannot forecast when the next stage of the pandemic will begin. But, we know it is coming and it may be even stronger than what we have so far experienced. We are relatively certain the UK variant of COVID-19 is circulating in the state. This variant is 50% to 70% more infectious than the original virus and will hospitalize and kill more people. While we hope and expect the vaccines will have an impact on the epidemic, the full effect will not be apparent for three to four months. Indeed, in almost all counties in the state, we have fully vaccinated less than 1% of the population,” noted the UAMS report.

Romero said he does not believe the state will see a rapid rise in cases, and that new virus variants will not alter the state’s focus, especially if people adhere to health safety guidelines.

“That will not change our strategy. … We can keep this under control,” he said.

Romero also noted that the state’s seven-day rolling average of percentage positive is now at 9.9%, which is below the recommended standard of 10% that was surpassed in early November.

“I’m happy to report today that, when combining both the positivity rate for our PCR test and our antigen test, we are for the first time under that. We are at 9.9(%). We hope to continue to see that go downward. It means that our efforts are working, that your efforts are working, and that we need continue with (mitigation strategies),” Romero said.

COVID REPORT – Feb. 9
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests

  • Total confirmed and probable cases: 308,848, up 1,475
  • Total confirmed and probable active cases: 14,898, down 422
  • Total confirmed and probable deaths: 5,148, up 42
  • There were 6,139 test results provided in the previous 24 hours
  • There were 573 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours

Hospitalizations: 775, down 2

Ventilators: 137, down 5

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (224), Benton (121), Washington (85), Lonoke (80), and Garland (77). The counties accounted for 39.8% of the 1,475 new confirmed and probable cases.

As of Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., there were 27,155,895 U.S. cases and 466,828 deaths. Globally, there were 106,732,062 cases and 2,333,276 deaths.