Arkansas reports 33 new virus deaths, ventilator use record

August 20, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas reported 33 new COVID-19 deaths and more than 2,400 new coronavirus cases Friday as the state reached a new high for virus patients on ventilators.

The Department of Health said the state’s COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began rose to 6,614, while coronavirus cases increased by 2,407 to 431,507 total since the pandemic began.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals dropped by 13 to 1,397, but only 19 intensive care unit beds were available in the state, the department said. There are 343 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, a new high for the state, while 533 are in ICUs.

Arkansas ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University research data. The state’s cases and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks due to the ultra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate.

Only about 39% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus. The state on Thursday reported 9,143 additional doses of the vaccine were given.

“We must continue to work to increase vaccinations,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted. “Our children under 12 cannot get the vaccine and need our help to stay healthy.”

The state this week reached a new high for hospitalizations and had one of the biggest one-day increases in cases since the pandemic began.

There are at least 1,797 active virus cases among students and staff at the state’s public schools, the Health Department said in a report dated Thursday. Arkansas’ public schools resumed classes statewide on Monday, though some schools started earlier.

Meanwhile, a district that had approved a mask requirement after a judge blocked the state’s mask mandate ban reversed course. The Harmony Grove School Board on Thursday repealed the mask requirement it imposed last week.

More than 100 public school districts and charter schools have approved mask mandates after a judge issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s ban on them. The requirements cover more than half the state’s public school students.

The Bentonville School District on Thursday also sought to move a lawsuit challenging its mask mandate from state to federal court. Three parents are seeking to block the district’s mask requirement, arguing the local school board did not have authority to implement it.