Omicron variant not yet pressuring Fort Smith hospitals

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,084 views 

The more transmissable Omicron variant of COVID-19 has not led to a major uptick in COVID-positive patients in Fort Smith hospitals. There were a record 6,562 new Arkansas cases of COVID reported Tuesday (Jan. 4), and active cases rose by 5,118 to a new record of 32,280.

There were 699 active cases of COVID in Sebastian County Tuesday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID dashboard, up 172 from Monday. There were 341 active cases in Crawford County, up 61 from Monday. Total deaths from the virus since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 is 413 in Sebastian County and 197 in Crawford County.

But the rise in active COVID cases in the area does not translate into a heavy rise in the number of COVID hospitalizations in area hospitals.According to the ADH dashboard, COVID hospitalizations in the Arkansas Valley Hospital Association Region dropped by five from Monday to 76 Tuesday. Of those, 21 were in the ICU and 13 were on a ventilator.

On Tuesday morning, there were 21 COVID patients hospitalized at Mercy Fort Smith, with five of those in ICU, according to Mardi Taylor, senior media relations and communications specialist with Mercy Fort Smith.

“In early 2021, Mercy saw a higher number of hospitalizations in this area, with patient totals in the mid-30s by late January/early February. We had roughly the same amount of COVID patients (19) in early December 2021 as we do now. Over the past two months, hospitalization totals reached into the high 20s and hit a low of 13,” Taylor said.

Alicia Agent, with marketing and communications for Baptist Health-Fort Smith, said the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 at Baptist Health-Fort Smith has remained stable in recent weeks. As of Tuesday there were 32 COVID patients hospitalized at Baptist with 12 of those in COVID Critical Care Units and 10 on ventilators, she said. Those numbers also are not causing undue stress on the hospitals, though precautions are being taken.

“At this point, Mercy Fort Smith has not delayed or rescheduled any elective surgeries, although some Mercy locations in Missouri are beginning that process. Our Mercy-wide visitor policy changed on Monday, Jan. 3. Currently, hospitalized patients are allowed just one visitor per day, down from two,” Taylor said.