By Rachell Sanchez-Smith
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is warning about a resurgence of COVID-19 in Arkansas, citing low vaccination rates paired with a more aggressive variant of the virus.
“We have the Fourth of July coming up and as you can see we did have an increase of cases subsequent to Memorial Day,” Hutchinson said at his June 29 press conference. “Since January 26, there have been 3,700 Arkansans hospitalized, and 98.3% of those were not immunized. There have been 988 deaths and 99.6% of those were not immunized.”
A significant rise in new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas last week highlighted the concern. On Thursday, the state reported 700 new cases, the highest one-day spike in nearly four months. By Friday, some 338 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, a level more than double since April.
“Statistics and science tell the story of what needs to be done. That means we need to continue to push the vaccinations,” Hutchinson said.
Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, told reporters the rising COVID-19 infections might indicate “the beginning of the third surge of the virus in the state of Arkansas.” Moreover, there’s a significant change in the age of new COVID-19 patients. “Our patients now are trending sicker than they were a year ago, and in fact, they are also trending younger,” Dr. Patterson said.
Dr. Patterson attributed the patient trends to the lower vaccination rates among younger people, and the emergence of the COVID-19 delta variant, which is nearly 70% more contagious. It also poses a higher risk among younger people and is far more dangerous, he added: “This is not losing your sense of smell and a bad case of the flu. This is immediately coming into the hospital and being put on a ventilator.”
“We are now going in the wrong direction, yet again, with COVID-19 infections in the state of Arkansas,” Dr. Patterson said.