LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas may be headed into a third surge of the coronavirus, a top hospital official warned Tuesday as the state’s virus cases continued to rise.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they were concerned about the rising number of cases as the state approaches the July 4 holiday.
“We have to be concerned that this will be a trend that could continue, and if it does, it would appear we may be at the beginning of the third surge of COVID-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” Patterson said at the governor’s weekly news conference
Arkansas reported 479 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 348,699. The state’s active cases, meaning those that don’t include people who have recovered or died from the virus, increased by 196 to 3,365.
The state’s COVID-19 deaths rose by eight to 5,905. Its hospitalizations decreased by eight to 306.
Hutchinson said 90.5% of the state’s active cases are not fully immunized, while 99.6% of the state’s deaths since late January were not immunized. More than 98% of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations since late January were people who had not been immunized.
Arkansas has had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and lawmakers this year curbed the state’s ability to impose mask mandates, vaccine requirements or other restrictions in response to the pandemic.
Hutchinson said he didn’t see a need for the state to shift its strategy or to seek reinstating the emergency declaration for the pandemic that was lifted in May. He said the delta variant’s impact in the state should be a reality check for people who haven’t been vaccinated yet.
“I don’t think there’s anything more the government can do than to be honest with everyone, and that they see the reality,” Hutchinson said. “The reality is the best incentive.”