COVID-19 cases increase by 127; no new deaths reported

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

According to numbers released by the Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday morning, there were 127 new cases of COVID-19 in the county since last week, with no additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and nearly 130 additional reported recoveries.

Statewide, however, the health department reported 18,253 new cases since Jan. 5, an increase of 8.4 percent. In the past seven days, more than 260 additional deaths have been reported.

The increases come nearly three weeks after the first round of vaccines were delivered to hospitals around the state as part of a massive inoculation effort aimed at vaccinating healthcare workers in advance of a larger effort aimed at the general populace.

At Eureka Springs Hospital, interim CEO Angie Shaw said the hospital distributed 26 doses of the initial vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being administered is given in two doses approximately 21 days apart.

The hospital received the first round doses on Dec. 18, and Shaw said the second dose is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, Jan. 7.

“We gave it to the healthcare staff that wanted it and then we offered a couple extra doses to EMS,” Shaw said. “We wanted to make sure our extra doses didn’t go to waste.”

The hospital employs 68 people, Shaw said, so the first round of vaccinations took care of a big chunk of the staff. Shaw said she recently received an email saying more doses will be available to the staff that didn’t get the first round of immunizations.

“That’s something we can offer to employees, EMS and any of our frontline workers that have not received theirs and want it,” Shaw said. “We weren’t sure how it was going to work after this first round — if we were going to have to resubmit our numbers and see if we qualify again — but it sounds like they’re trying to push this out.”

At Mercy Hospital in Berryville — which employs approximately 125 people — executive director Cody Qualls said Monday that 55 initial vaccine doses were administered last month, with another 30 to 35 administered Monday.

“After today, that would put us at everyone who wanted to take the vaccine — which is a very high proportion of our staff — will have had the first round by the end of day today,” Qualls said. “We’re hopefully receiving those second doses by the end of this week.”

Shaw acknowledged that there has been some misinformation about the vaccine, especially when it comes to side effects. From her experience, Shaw said, the vaccine has resulted in little to no side effects.

“We have not had any complications. I’ve had a few people say their arm hurt afterward, but they said it was no different from the flu vaccine,” Shaw said.

Seeing others take the vaccine, Shaw said, has convinced a few hospital employees to take the vaccine when the next round arrives.

“Some of the folks that did not receive it in the beginning are now asking if we’re going to get more, because they are ready to get it,” Shaw said. “I had a few staff that were on the fence. They were paying attention to the misinformation out there, but then they started educating themselves and now they’re ready for it.”

Tuesday morning’s report from the ADH showed a total of 234,781 cases statewide, including 193,655 lab-confirmed cases, along with 207,898 reported recoveries and 3,800 deaths.

In last week’s COVID-19 update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that he would be extending the public health emergency in Arkansas for an additional 60 days. The state of emergency was originally set to expire Dec. 30.

“There’s not any good news at all in this report,” Hutchinson said during the Dec. 29 news conference, during which he spotlighted the number of deaths attributed to the virus in a single day — 66, the largest number in a 24-hour period in the state since the pandemic began.

Locally, there were a total of 2,133 cases reported in Carroll County, including 1,868 confirmed, along with 1,958 reported recoveries. As of Tuesday, 145 cases remained active. No new deaths were reported since last week, leaving the total at 30.

Last week, Hutchinson said that he hopes the vaccine distribution will “turn the tide.”

“Our hospitals have worked very hard to get the vaccines, even through the holidays, administered,” he said. “Our healthcare workers are responding very well. It’s picked up the morale, the step of those working in that environment.

“We’re moving quickly, in terms of the vaccine, for our healthcare workers.”

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