By Katie Beth Nichols
Arkansas is headed toward a major surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths according to predictions from The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Public Health. The report suggests that cases statewide will triple in the next two weeks.
“We are definitely deep in the middle of a fast moving COVID-19 surge in Arkansas,” UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said.
UAMS released a COVID-19 forecasting report on July 20 that predicts more than 1,000 new cases per day over the next 15 days. This is somewhat of a conservative forecast since Arkansascovid.com data is showing a 7-day average of 1,537 new COVID-19 cases statewide as of July 25. College of Public Health Dean Dr. Mark Williams said that this surge may exceed the most recent winter surge in terms of cases and hospitalizations.
The report says the COVID-19 test positivity rate in Arkansas is over 20%, five times the national average. “Although testing rates are low, this is a very high positivity rate, suggesting rapid community viral spread,” Patterson said.
The 60-74 age group continues to be the largest in terms of hospitalizations, but UAMS experts predict that hospitalizations of the age 35-59 group will soon exceed that of the older age group.
UAMS officials said vaccination the only way to slow this surge. Yet Arkansas still has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with 35.6% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 according to July 22 CDC data.