Arkansas’ COVID-19 Hospitalizations Reach New Record

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The number of people hospitalized in Arkansas due to COVID-19 reached another record on Tuesday as the state unveiled a new effort to coordinate its virus cases among its hospitals.

The Department of Health said the state’s hospitalizations due to the illness caused by the coronavirus rose by 11 to 1,074. The state’s confirmed and probable virus cases rose by 1,950 to 159,309.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state would begin using its Trauma Communications Center to coordinate transfers of COVID-19 patients between hospitals. The plan was recommended by a task force Hutchinson formed to address a surge in virus cases and hospitalizations.

“We’re really trying to maximize the use of those scarce resources, ICU beds in particular, and look at the whole state and take care of all of our patients in Arkansas,” said Baptist Health President and CEO Troy Wells, who is also a member of the task force.

The new system will cost about $70,000 a month and should be up and running in about two weeks, Hutchinson said.

The state’s COVID-19 deaths also rose by 10 to 2,512. The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested and people can carry the virus but not feel sick.

Hutchinson last month ordered bars and restaurants serving alcohol to close earlier because of the surge in cases. He said he didn’t know what would trigger further moves or restrictions but said hospitalizations would be a critical factor.

About 26% of the state’s 8,978 hospital beds and 6% — or 72 — of its 1,147 intensive care unit beds are available, according to the Department of Health. There are 404 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.

Hutchinson also said he’s asking the state Board of Education to expedite the licensing process and waive applications for them. The governor made a similar move last month for nursing graduates.

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