By Caroline Sellers
Arkansas COVID-19 cases are on a steady decline after a month-long spike, but hospitals remain busy as the delta variant sweeps the state.
Hospitals, particularly in the Northeast and Southwest regions, have been hit the hardest. As of Sept. 27, both the Northeast region led the state with 18 COVID-19 patients per 100 hospital beds, followed by the Arkansas Valley and Southwest regions, with 11 COVID-19 patients per 100 hospital beds, according to ArkansasCovid.com analysis of state health department data.
The state exceeded 1,000 hospitalizations daily from July 27 through Sept. 20. As of Sept. 27, total COVID-19 hospitalizations were 835.
One hospital hit by the summer pandemic spike was Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff. Jefferson County, where Pine Bluff is located, has been hit hard by COVID-19 ranking eighth in deaths and 10th in positive cases, according to Sept. 26 state health data.
“In July and August we got as high as the mid-30s and upper-30s as far as COVID positive cases,” said Jamie McCombs, the hospital’s director of communications and public relations. “That was the highest we had been even in the very thick of things when COVID first started and all the numbers were so high.”
McCombs said cases have gone down recently with only 10 COVID-19 positive patients on Sept. 14.
Jefferson Regional was fortunate to enough staff members and nursing to care for patients, McCombs said, but it has been challenging. Most of the COVID patients that come into Jefferson Regional have not been vaccinated, McCombs said.
“Out of the 10 patients we had yesterday, seven were not vaccinated,” she said.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock has also been affected by the spike.
“We have been seeing the same kind of increase throughout the summer as our adult colleagues have due to the spread of the delta variant. It is infecting children so we are seeing more children hospitalized,” said Dr. Jessica Snowden, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“Children are more susceptible to the delta variant than they appear to have been to earlier variants,” she said. “That could just be because children are not vaccinated and the adults around them are going around without masks when you’ve got a hyper-contagious variant like the Delta variant out there.”
Doctors are not yet sure if children are truly more easily affected with the Delta variant or if the variant is just so much more infectious, Snowden said.
She said even though the hospital is full, Arkansas Children’s has been able to make sure to provide care to COVID-19 patients.
“Our hospital is very flexible and motivated to make sure that no child in Arkansas goes without if we can provide help for them,” Snowden said.