COVID-19 deaths in Arkansas top 3,000; second vaccine could soon arrive

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 449 views 

With in-state COVID-19 deaths topping 3,000 and cumulative cases approaching 200,000, Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said Tuesday (Dec. 15) a second vaccine – Moderna – could soon be approved and join the Pfizer vaccinations that began Monday.

The Moderna vaccine, which has a 94.2% effective rate in the 30,000-person clinical study, is on track for an emergency use authorization on Friday, with the vaccine possibly being shipped to states over the weekend. Arkansas health officials this week received 25,000 Pfizer vaccines. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during his Tuesday COVID briefing that the state will every Friday be notified of how many Pfizer vaccines will arrive in the next week.

As of Monday, Pfizer was scheduled to provide the U.S. with 100 million doses, and Moderna – if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – will deliver 200 million doses, with 20 million to arrive in December and 100 million within the first quarter of 2021. The 300 million total vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna is enough to vaccinate 150 million Americans, a little less than half of the more than 330 million U.S. residents. A first batch from Moderna to Arkansas could deliver 51,000 vaccines.

Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said it is important the first available vaccines go to frontline healthcare workers.

“They have been under tremendous physical and emotional strain for more than eight months, and knowing they have additional protection from infection will provide a tremendous sense of relief,” Patterson said.

Patterson stressed that the arrival of vaccines does not mean Arkansans can be slack in following health safety guidelines such as wearing masks and socially distancing.

“This vaccine is only the first step in overcoming this virus. We will continue to require masks, eye protection and other protective gear for the foreseeable future, as we do not yet know how long the vaccine is effective or whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus. We are confident that the vaccine is safe, and we look forward to being able to offer the vaccine to all our employees, students and patients,” he said.

Romero said Phase 2 recommendations on who receives vaccines should come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the next two weeks. Phase 1 is expected to cover healthcare workers, nursing home workers, emergency responders and others involved in health care. Phase 2 is likely to include teachers, those with one or more comorbidity conditions, those age 65 and older and essential workers such as those in food and agriculture, transit, grocery retail, and sanitation.

FATALITIES, CARE COORDINATION
Tuesday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) showed another 26 confirmed and probable COVID deaths, pushing the total to 3,016. Total cumulative known confirmed and probable cases rose by 2,141 to 189,198, and active cases fell to 20,690.

The ADH also reported that average monthly COVID deaths rose from 1.4 in March, to 14.4 in August and 22.1 in November. Gov. Hutchinson said the rise in monthly average deaths is a “somber reminder” of the deadly nature of the pandemic.

It was also announced Tuesday that COVIDComm will launch Wednesday. The system, first announced Dec. 1, will be managed by ADH and is designed to better match patient needs – for COVID and other critical care – with hospital and other medical resources available around the state. The goal is to ensure patients receive the critical care they need, reduce the time to match patients with resources, and help prevent hospitals and healthcare workers from being overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, there were 1,160 ICU beds in the state, with 73 available.

COVID REPORT – Dec. 15
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 161,592 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,224 new community cases and 12 reported cases in correctional facilities
• 20,690 probable cases, down from 20,701 on Monday
• There are 16,012 active cases, down from 16,414 on Monday
• There were 8,297 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 3,872 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.

Deaths
• 2,672, up 16
• 344 probable COVID-related deaths, up 10

Hospitalizations
1,070, up 20

Ventilators
190, up 10

Recovered cases
141,264

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (273), Washington (172), Benton (137), Saline (97), and Craighead (96). The counties accounted for 62.7% of the 1,236 new community cases.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 16,598,094 U.S. cases and 302,046 deaths. Globally, there were 73,211,434 cases and 1,629,792 deaths.

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