Arkansas COVID-19 deaths continue to rise, hospitalizations set new record

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,393 views 

An 8.2% rise in COVID-19 deaths in just the first four days of August is not tied to any one location or region, interim Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said Tuesday (Aug. 4), and reflects the statewide spread of the virus.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported Tuesday that deaths rose from 475 on Monday to 490. The number of deaths is up 37, or 8.2%, from the 453 on July 31. COVID deaths rose 63.53% in July, from 277 on July 1 to 453 on July 31.

“COVID is communitywide, statewide, and what it’s telling us is that we need to mitigate this statewide. It’s not just a single issue in one particular county or in one region,” Romero said during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 45,381 on Tuesday, up from 44,597 on Monday. Of the 784 new cases, 10 were from correctional facilities. There are 6,891 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 475 to 490. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 526 on Tuesday, up from 513 on Monday. There are 101 patients on ventilators, down from 108 on Monday. There are 38,000 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new cases reported were: Pulaski (149), Sebastian (56), Mississippi (55), Washington (45), and Benton (35). The counties accounted for 44% of the 774 new community cases reported Tuesday.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 4,738,853 U.S. cases and 155,942 deaths. Globally, there were 18,349,260 cases and 695,709 deaths.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said Tuesday his department is continuing to deal with fraudulent unemployment claims. He said about 27,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims are on hold for potential fraud, and about 10,000 traditional unemployment insurance claims are on hold for possible fraud.

The PUA program provides unemployment benefits to the self-employed, freelancers and others not typically qualifying for unemployment benefits. The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress to provide aid to individuals, businesses and state and local governments in response to the pandemic.

“We’re trying to get through that backlog, so that we can make the payments to those who are in need of that payment and rightfully deserve that payment,” Preston said, adding that the department is hoping to work through the backlog within two weeks.

Preston said the two best ways to report fraud are through the following e-mail and phone number: [email protected], or (501) 682-1058. He said it’s important to leave a message if placing a call because the message is converted into an e-mail to which department staff can more easily respond.

Preston also said continued claims for traditional unemployment insurance is around 90,000, down from the peak of around 122,000 in early May.