By Rachell Sanchez-Smith
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are projected to continue declining in the coming weeks despite a slowing vaccination rate in Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences said in its latest forecast.
Arkansas is projected to see daily COVID-19 cases fall to about 1,300 a day by Oct. 12 from the about 2,000 a day reported in mid-September, the medical school said in its Sept. 13 forecast. While the figures have dropped recently, the numbers are still high compared to the low average of 172 daily cases in April 2021. Daily hospital admissions from the virus are due to fall to 40 a day in the next two weeks from 70 per day.
The forecast was at a loss to explain the decline, given the resumption of in-person classes and mass events such as Razorback football games.
“The models are showing a decline in cases and hospitalizations through Oct. 12. The reason for the decline is unclear,” the medical school said. The vaccination rate has not increased to the level to warrant such a decline in cases, the report said.
The decline can be attributed to the typical “wave” pattern of pandemic infections where cases from the delta variant of the virus rose rapidly at first and then declined. The reason for such a pattern is unknown, but Arkansas has generally seen declining cases since mid-August.
Despite this general decline, children age 17 and younger remain the most vulnerable to the virus. COVID-19 cases are forecast to grow among children by 14% by Oct. 12, the report said.
Vaccination rates in most Arkansas counties have slowed, increasing by 4% to 6% in the last month, UAMS report said. Miller County reported the lowest fully vaccinated rate of 13.4%, and Bradley County reported the highest rate with 57.4%, according to Arkansas Department of Health data.
The national average for vaccination rate stands at 55.2% according to the Mayo Clinic using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from Sept. 23. The vaccine tracker shows the sharp contrast to the national average considering Arkansas’s rate stands at 45% of fully vaccinated residents.
“To forego vaccination is like playing Russian roulette with multiple loaded chambers.” the UAMS forecast said.