Continuing a recent upward trend, Arkansas’ count of coronavirus cases rose Tuesday by 212 — the largest daily increase in more than a month.
The number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19, however, remained for a second day at 47, up by just one from its lowest level this year.
After not changing a day earlier, the number of the state’s virus patients who were on ventilators fell by two, to 10, the smallest number since May 17, 2020.
Already at its lowest level since at least May 2020, the number of the state’s virus patients who were in intensive care fell by two, to 15.
The state’s death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Arkansas Department of Health, rose by two, to 11,375.
“It seems like a continuation from where we were starting last week” when the state’s new case numbers began ticking upward after hovering at a lower level for weeks, State Epidemiologist Mike Cima said Tuesday.
He noted that the uptick in cases hasn’t yet translated to an increase in hospitalized patients, which he said is similar to what’s happened in other states.
“Their hospitalizations, while they may have increased slightly over time from where their low point was after the omicron surge, they really have not taken off, which is encouraging,” Cima said.
He said one of the deaths reported Tuesday happened in February, and the other was within the past month.
The increase in cases on Tuesday was more than five times the size of the one on Monday and more than twice the size of the one the previous Tuesday.
It was the first daily increase that topped 200 since March 24 — a time when the state’s new cases numbers were inflated by a backlog of weeks-old reports faxed in by providers during the omicron surge.
The average daily increase in the state’s case count over a rolling seven-day period rose Tuesday to 127, which was up from an average of 77 a day the previous week.
It was the highest daily average over seven days since the week ending March 29.
With new cases outpacing recoveries and deaths, the number of cases in the state that were considered active grew by 103, to 1,316.
It was the first time the active case total had been above 1,300 since March 27.
Greene County, Arkansas’ 15th-largest by population, had the most new cases, 44, on Tuesday, followed by Pulaski County with 28 and Benton County with 17.
Greene County also had 118 active cases, the second-highest total in the state after Pulaski County’s 285.
Washington County, had the third-highest active case total, 107, followed by Benton County with 103.
Cima said the Health Department hasn’t found a link between the cases in Greene County and a particular location, such as a nursing home or a correctional facility.
“It just seemed to be dispersed throughout the community,” Cima said.
In Craighead County, which borders Greene County in northeastern Arkansas, St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro had just three covid-19 patients on Tuesday, including one who was no longer considered infectious, hospital spokesman Mitchell Nail said.
According to information listed on the Health Department’s online coronavirus dashboard, that appeared to account for most or all of the covid-19 patients in a 14-county region in eastern and northeastern Arkansas.
The dashboard listed the region as having three hospitalized covid-19 patients on Tuesday.
Nail said the number at St. Bernards had gotten down to just one earlier this month, including a couple days when the lone remaining covid-19 patient was no longer considered infectious.
“Lately our flu numbers have been about as high as our covid numbers,” Nail said.
He said none of the hospital’s covid-19 patients on Tuesday was in intensive care or on a ventilator.
At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children’s had two covid-19 patients Tuesday, the same number as a week earlier, spokeswoman Hilary DeMillo said.
She said neither of the patients on Tuesday was in intensive care or on a ventilator.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data indicating that an estimate of 57.7% of people nationally, including 64% of Arkansans, had been infected with covid-19 at some point as of late February.
The estimates are from an ongoing study using blood samples drawn for routine medical screenings unrelated to covid-19. Nationally, the sample size was 45,810; from Arkansas, the CDC tested 1,349 samples.
The samples are tested for antibodies that are produced in response to infection but not to vaccination.
The infection rates are higher for people in younger age groups than older ones.
For instance, an estimated 74.6% of children up to age 17 nationally, including 81.3% of Arkansas children, have been infected.
Among people 65 and older, the percentage who have been infected was estimated to be 35.7% in Arkansas and 33.2% nationwide.
Cima said the purpose of such studies is to “understand the breadth of spread of covid-19 within our communities,” especially when an increasing number of people are diagnosing infections using at-home tests, the results of which are typically not reported to state health departments.
“It does not mean that if you’ve had an infection you don’t need to get vaccinated,” Cima said.
“We would encourage anybody who has not been vaccinated to start their vaccination series, regardless of whether they’ve been previously infected or not.”
Children age 5 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. The other vaccines authorized in the United States, from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are available to people age 18 and older.
In their latest forecast report, based on data through April 10, researchers with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health predicted the state’s new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from covid-19 would remain flat from April 12 through May 10.
They predicted the state would have an average of 294 new cases per day, with an average of 23 people a day being admitted to hospitals with covid-19 and 15 people per day succumbing to the virus.
Repeating a warning from their previous report, in March, they said the state should be prepared for a future surge in infections.
“Arkansans do not need to be at red alert all the time,” the researchers wrote. “But, we must be prepared to go back on alert status when circumstances warrant.”
The state’s cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose Tuesday to 835,247.
The Health Department’s tally of vaccine doses that had been administered rose by 2,206, which was larger by 124 than the daily increase a week earlier.
Almost half of the most recent increase was from doses classified on the Health Department dashboard as not having an “available dose number.”
That’s how the department is listing second booster doses, which were authorized late last month for people who are 50 or older or have compromised immune systems.
The count of doses for people receiving the vaccine for the first time rose by 509, which was up by 172 from the increase in first doses a week earlier.
The average number of total doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period rose to 2,006, which was still down from more than 2,300 a day the previous week.
The average for first doses rose to 439.
According to the CDC, 66.6% of Arkansans had received at least one dose as of Tuesday, a percentage that hadn’t changed since Sunday.
The percentage who had been fully vaccinated remained at 54.3%.
Of those who had been fully vaccinated, 39.5% had received a booster dose.
Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas ranked 37th in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one dose and 46th, ahead of Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming and Alabama, in the percentage who were fully vaccinated.
Nationally, 77.5% of people had received at least one dose, and 66.1% were fully vaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated population nationally, 45.7% had received a booster dose.