By Emma Dannenfelser
Nearly one year after the COVID-19 virus became a public health crisis, more than 5,400 people in Arkansas have died from the virus.
The death rate remains steady even though new COVID-19 cases have fallen significantly. The 7-day average death rate stood at 22 as of March 12, according to Arkansascovid analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data.
“We look forward to the day that that will be down to zero”, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a Feb. 23 press conference.
Arkansas experienced a harsh winter with the COVID-19 death toll. The heaviest one-day death toll was on Dec. 29, when the health department reported 66 deaths in a single day. There were 14 occasions in December and January when the one-day death toll exceeded 50, showing the intensity of the virus at its peak.
The Arkansas Department of Health credits the declining COVID-19 death toll to better knowledge of the virus and treatment strategies. The steady reduction in new cases also helps.
Ally Miriani has seen that decline firsthand. Miriani is a senior nursing student at the University of Arkansas and intern at The Mercy Hospital Intensive COVID-19 Care Unit in Rogers.
“I think the decrease could be because health care workers are learning more about COVID and the timeline we need to follow when advising people who become infected to seek care, in order to get them treated before it becomes serious,” Miriani said in a phone interview.
Completely lowering the new death count will rely heavily on vaccine distribution. In the past week, between March 5 and March 12, the state reported nearly 110,000 shots were administered. Arkansas received nearly 182,000 doses of the vaccine during that week.
Patient education could help expand the public’s acceptance of the vaccine, Miriani said.
“We need more education regarding the vaccine in order to gain herd immunity, specifically in the more rural counties where we have historically seen more vaccine hesitancy,” Miriani said.
–Rob Wells contributed to this report