Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday (Jan. 5) the estimated 180,000 Arkansans in the first vaccine phase should receive those doses by the end of January, and is tasking the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to help coordinate vaccinations in subsequent phases.
The vaccine update was part of another grim report on the rising COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported Tuesday another 4,107 confirmed and probable cases, bringing the cumulative total to 238,888. Active confirmed and probable cases rose 1,351 to reach a new record of 24,408. Deaths rose by 36 to reach 3,836.
Hospitalizations again set a new record, rising by 27 to 1,323. The ADH reported that available ICU beds fell from 49 on Monday to 47 on Tuesday. COVID patients on ventilators rose by 12 to a record of 224.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said during the governor’s Tuesday press briefing that hospital systems around the state are now able to deal with the rising case load, but the next 2 to 3 weeks may require “surge capacity” changes.
“We are stressed. We are strained. But the system is not breaking at the present moment. We do have finite resources, so we do need to be careful as to how we manage those resources, and we need to do everything that we can as a state to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 while we wait for the effects of the vaccine to impact us in a positive manner,” Patterson said.
Gov. Hutchinson said first-phase vaccinations are moving well in hospitals, but there has been a “greater logistical challenge” in nursing homes because of needed consent agreements with patients and other coordination issues between pharmacies and the nursing homes.
The ADH reports 134,425 vaccine doses for state use have been received between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, with 37,884 given. Doses received through a federal program targeting nursing homes totaled 24,700 between Dec. 28 and Jan. 5, with just 1,324 given.
Gov. Hutchinson said phase 1b vaccinations should begin Feb. 1, with the estimated more than 400,000 Arkansans in that phase vaccinated within 60 days. Vaccines for those in phase 1c would begin after that. The governor announced that the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management will work with hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and others to expedite vaccine distribution in phases 1b and after.
Phase 1a includes high priority health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, and K-12 health clinics and nurses. Phase 1b includes those who are 70 or older and frontline essential workers such as teachers and school staff, food and agri workers and any emergency workers not includes in 1a. Phase 1c includes people who are 65-69, those 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers such as transportation and logistics, and water/wastewater managers. (Link here for a PDF that includes the complete list of those in each phase of Arkansas’ vaccine phases.)
John Vinson, a pharmacist and CEO of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, said 212 pharmacies in 73 of Arkansas 75 counties have vaccines and are ready to do whatever it takes to get the vaccines to every part of the state. He noted that 212 also is the boiling point of water.
“We’re about to bring the heat to this virus. I’m sick of it. I have family members that have been affected by this, and friends. We’re ready, now that we have the vaccine, to fight back and save lives and our pharmacists are ready for this moment,” Vinson said.
Patterson said he is concerned about vaccine acceptance, noting that of 4,000 UAMS workers surveyed, around 30% were reluctant to receive the vaccine. He said that is a large number considering that UAMS workers receive “gold-standard” information about vaccine safety. Gov. Hutchinson said there will be an active messaging campaign to all parts of the state touting the vaccine’s safety and the need for all Arkansans to receive the vaccine when it is available to them.
COVID REPORT – Jan 5
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 195,930 known cumulative PCR cases, with 2,261 new community cases and 14 reported cases in correctional facilities
• 42,958 probable cases, up from 41,126 on Monday
• There are 16,883 active cases, up from 16,459 on Monday
• There were 5,224 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 3,552 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.
• 3,205, up 27
• 631 probable COVID-related deaths, up 9
1,323, up 27
224, up 12
The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (418), Washington (399), Benton (389), Sebastian (265), and Garland (232). The counties accounted for 41.5% of the 4,107 new confirmed and probable cases.
As of Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., there were 20,903,619 U.S. cases and 355,371 deaths. Globally, there were 86,093,941 cases and 1,862,126 deaths.