University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said the Little Rock hospital is adding new emergency department space in an adjacent parking deck and may double up patients in single rooms in response to the growing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Patterson’s note on the system’s status and COVID prep work came as hospitalizations set a new record for the third day in a row. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported Wednesday (Dec. 30) that hospitalizations rose by 13 to 1,174. The ADH also reported that available ICU beds statewide fell from 55 on Tuesday to 50 on Wednesday.
Total known confirmed and probable cases rose by 3,184 to 222,430, confirmed and probable active cases rose by 672 to 21,853 and confirmed and probable deaths rose by 34 to 3,637.
There is also growing concern nationwide that a more easily transmissible COVID variant first identified in the United Kingdom will begin spreading in the United States, which would place even more pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers. Despite efforts to block travel from the UK, the variant has appeared in California and Colorado. The ability to detect the new variant in Arkansas is limited.
“Only a few labs in our state use the testing platform which will allow us to detect the new variant. If any cases are detected, then those samples need to be confirmed by sequencing,” ADH spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill told Talk Business & Politics. “We are currently coordinating with various reference labs around and outside the state which use the Taqpath testing platform to look for suspected cases from Arkansas samples. In looking back, if any suspected cases are discovered, these will need to be confirmed by sequencing by (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).”
In a series of tweets posted Wednesday, Patterson, the head of the largest medical system in the state, outlined how he and other UAMS officials are working to deal with the existing rise in cases and the expected surge from Christmas and New Year gatherings.
“UAMS, despite limiting the number of elective surgeries, has had difficulty keeping pace with the needs of patients with & without COVID-19 due to the impact of the pandemic on our community,” Patterson wrote. “Our next steps here at UAMS include asking our healthcare providers to take on more patients than usual, to reassign some of them to new duties that they are capable of, & potentially to start doubling up patients in single rooms.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also noted the strain on hospitals.
“We continue to see high numbers of new cases and capacity pressures on our hospitals. I urge everyone to be careful as we enter another holiday to reduce the virus spread, and we need to support each other as Arkansans while we work to distribute the vaccine,” he said in a a statement with Wednesday’s ADH report.
Patterson also praised the effort of healthcare workers to deal with the pandemic.
“Unless circumstances change drastically, this will get worse before it gets better. This virus is trying to break us here in the state of Arkansas, but while we are bending we are not about to break. That’s not because of the number of beds we have or the facilities we have built. It’s because of the healthcare providers at the front line who are going above & beyond to adapt to incredibly difficult circumstances.”
COVID REPORT – Dec. 30
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 184,947 known cumulative PCR cases, with 2,289 new community cases and 31 reported cases in correctional facilities
• 37,483 probable cases, up from 36,619 on Tuesday
• There are 15,658 active cases, up from 15,158 on Tuesday
• There were 8,843 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 4,398 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.
• 3,068, up 26
• 569 probable COVID-related deaths, up 8
1,174, up 13
205, up 7
The top five counties with new known cases reported Wednesday were: Pulaski (355), Washington (290), Benton (278), Faulkner (150), and Sebastian (134). The counties accounted for 38% of the 3,184 new confirmed and probable cases.
As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 19,575,927 U.S. cases and 340,004 deaths. Globally, there were 82,330,554 cases and 1,797,732 deaths