COVID numbers ‘are not good;’ UAMS modeling shows rise in near-term hospitalizations

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 672 views 

Almost any COVID-19 metric in Arkansas has in recent days set a new record, with the trend showing no sign of improving. But Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is not considering new rules to stem the spread, saying instead that existing rules, when followed, are enough.

Tuesday’s (Nov. 10) report from the Arkansas Department of Health showed a record number of active cases (10,105), a record number of hospitalizations (810) and a record number of COVID patients on ventilators (127). Total known cumulative cases rose by 1,424 to 124,235, and the number of confirmed and probable COVID deaths rose by 4 to 2,112.

“The numbers are not good. The trend is not good. And we have a lot of work to do here in Arkansas and across the nation. We’re in for a very challenging time, and we just have to remind ourselves every day as to the risk that is out there and the responsibility that we have,” Gov. Hutchinson said to open his weekly briefing on Tuesday.

Gov. Hutchinson pushed back against media questions about “repeating the same message” and expecting different results. He said restrictions on the economy would hurt businesses but would not stop family events and other group gatherings that are the primary cause of the spread. He said “top professionals around the globe” say that wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands are the best ways to contain COVID-19.

“So if we do those things, there is not a need to do more,” Gov. Hutchinson said, adding later in the briefing that “we are stressing compliance and we’re taking a number of steps to enhance that.”

The COVID numbers are likely to get worse. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths is a “harbinger” of what may result from family gatherings during the upcoming holiday season.

“This is a harbinger. This is something that we may see even more significantly as we enter into the Thanksgiving, and the Christmas and New Year holidays. So we are concerned about this,” Romero said.

Romero also “strongly discouraged” families bringing elderly family members from nursing homes to family gatherings for holiday gatherings.

Relatively good news came Tuesday from updated COVID modeling posted by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The short-term modeling predicts 150,777 cumulative cases by Dec. 31, with an estimated 2.6% weekly growth. Cumulative hospitalizations are expected to reach 9,537 by Dec. 31, up from 2,443 on Nov. 1.

The modeling is based on numbers and trends as of Nov. 1.

Fatigue is cited in the report as one reason for a rise in cases.

“The short-term forecast describes significant continued growth in COVID-19 cases over the next 15 days. A plausible reason for this outcome is that portions of the community do not see themselves at high risk of infection and are behaving accordingly. A second plausible reason is pandemic fatigue. While not measured, it is described by many as people and households simply tired of following CDC and state guidelines.”

Long-term predictions suggest a lessening of the full impact compared with the previous modeling, with a reduction in numbers among all metrics. Following are the two updated long-term estimates.

• Mean-case estimates
April 7 (previously April 3)
Active cases: 35,718 (previously 40,085)
Hospitalizations: 857 (previously 962)
ICU beds: 299 (previously 336)
Ventilators: 104 (previously 117)

• Worst-case estimates
March 30 (previously March 21)
Active cases: 59,421 (previously 62,930)
Hospitalizations: 1,426 (previously 1,510)
ICU beds: 499 (previously 528)
Ventilators: 174 (previously 184)

UAMS officials also said Arkansans are not sure they will accept a vaccine if made available.

“There are clear differences in willingness to accept a COVD-19 vaccine by acceptance of infection mitigation behaviors. Stronger beliefs about the necessity and effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation behaviors are strongly correlated with greater willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine. This suggests addressing acceptance of mitigation behaviors is likely to positively impact vaccine acceptance. Despite differences by race/ethnicity and beliefs about mitigation behaviors, Arkansans in general appear to be tepid toward accepting a COVID-19 vaccine.”

New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 112,736 known cumulative PCR cases, with 972 new community cases and 3 cases in correctional facilities
• 11,499 “probable” cases, up from 11,050 on Monday
• There are 10,105 active cases, up from 9,957 on Monday
• There were 7,175 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 1,787 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours with 400 positives.

• 1,934, up 4
• 178 “probable” COVID-related deaths, unchanged

810, up 24

127, up 11

Recovered cases

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (131), Washington (114), Benton (104), Craighead (90), and Independence (64). The counties accounted for 51.7% of the 972 new community cases.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 10,165,065 U.S. cases and 238,863 deaths. Globally, there were 51,211,972 cases and 1,267,780 deaths.