By Mary Hennigan
Eight months after the state’s last major spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Arkansas experienced another brutal month of the pandemic with the death of 793 people from the virus statewide, the third deadliest month on record, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
With daily new case numbers reaching more than 2,000 several times this month, a total of 66,439 Arkansans were sick with COVID-19 in August, according to an Arkansascovid.com analysis of ADH data. This case load was 71% higher than the numbers reported in July.
The spike in cases and deaths similar to that of January this year, caused the state’s hospital to fill with COVID-19 patients. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced August 21 that Arkansas hospitals had completely run out of ICU beds for those sick with the virus. About 19 ICU beds were available as of Thursday.
Hospitalization numbers stayed above 1,100 all of August, with the state’s record-high, 1,459, reached on Aug. 16. Patients on ventilators also reached a record-high with 388 on Aug. 31, according to the ADH.
Medical professionals gave more than 350,000 vaccines in August, with a daily average of 11,340 doses given. Still, just 42% of all Arkansans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control, well below the national rate of 53%, placing the state in the bottom of states with vaccinated residents.
August also brought the start of a new school year for the state’s school-aged children and those in higher education. As of Aug. 30, there were 4,461 total active cases in educational institutions. At the end of the month, active cases in schools made up 20% of the active cases statewide.
Medical professionals and the City of Fayetteville, alarmed at the rapid growth of the pandemic, urged postponement of Northwest Arkansas’s popular motorcycle rally, Bikes, Blues and BBQ, in September. Event officials delayed the event after the University of Arkansas revoked a permit to hold the rally in a parking lot in south Fayetteville.
Demographically, white Arkansans reported the most COVID-19 cases with 41,345 in August, but the state’s Pacific Islander population continues to have the highest rate of infection in its community with 3,259 total cases per 10,000 population. The Hispanic population has the second-highest infection rate at 1,851 cases.