Hospitals react to rapid rise in COVID-19 cases
At least one hospital in Northwest Arkansas is making changes in light of the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the region and across the state, while another is continuing on the same path chosen last April.
In a news release issued last week, Birch Wright, the chief operating officer and administrator for Fayetteville-based Washington Regional Medical System, said the healthcare system would be moving to Phase 2 of its “COVID-19 Surge Plan.”
“This allows us to temporarily reassign some of our hospital and clinic team members to assist in areas of most critical need in the hospital,” Wright said. “It also allows us to move to a team-based nursing approach where primary nurses have support from secondary nurses for non-specialized tasks. These actions will allow us to expand our capacity, making it possible for us to care for an increased number of COVID and non-COVID patients.”
Meanwhile, at Mercy Hospital in Berryville, healthcare workers are operating under the same surge plan that was instituted in April 2020, “when we realized the pandemic was worsening,” Mercy spokesman Jennifer Cook said Monday.
“As our number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has fluctuated with the pandemic, Mercy Hospital Berryville has closed and re-opened parts of the hospital as needed,” Cook said. “Recently, Mercy Hospital Berryville expanded its ability to care for COVID-19 patients by converting all of the inpatient hospital rooms to negative pressure to be able to support community needs.”
Wright’s statement came in the wake of a report from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.
“COVID is no longer smoldering,” the report states. “It has broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and strength. We cannot stand still. We must act to reduce the consequences of this new surge to the extent possible.”
That report also projected a daily average of 1,039 new cases over the next week and an average increase of 169 new cases per day in children under the age of 17.
As of Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 375,971 cases of the novel coronavirus, a number which includes 355,202 reported “recoveries” and 6,077 deaths. The ADH report lists 14,627 active cases, including 919 hospital admissions. Of those, 347 are being treated in intensive care with 173 requiring the aid of a ventilator.
A week ago, the number of cases in Arkansas was 367,007. The death toll then was 6,007, indicating that 70 people died from complications related to the virus in the past week, a rate of 10 per day.
In Carroll County — where Washington Regional operates a family medical clinic in Eureka Springs — the ADH reported 3,156 total cases, including 2,976 “recoveries” and 47 deaths. On Tuesday, there were 133 active cases in the county.
Those numbers represent increases of 82 total cases in the past seven days, along with nine new active cases.
According to the state health department, less than 50 percent of Arkansans eligible for the vaccine have been fully vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 1,046,302 Arkansans aged 12 and up — or 40.92 percent — have been fully vaccinated, while another 280,029 are partially vaccinated.
As part of the state’s effort to meet Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s May 4 directive calling for 50 percent of Arkansans to be vaccinated in 90 days, the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and Arkansas Department of Health are partnering to provide the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the 35th annual Berryville Ice Cream Social on Friday in Berryville.
All attendees who are 18 and older are eligible. The vaccines will be available from noon to 7 p.m. Friday, July 30, at the AFMC/ADH booth located on the downtown square and will be offered free of charge.
In addition, Carroll County residents are able to receive vaccines at a number of locations. In Berryville, walk-ins are welcome at Economy Drug and Poyner Drug from 8-11 a.m. and from 1-3:30 p.m. In Green Forest, Boston Mountain Rural Health Center and Harp’s Food Stores Pharmacy also offer vaccines by appointment and in Eureka Springs, vaccines are available by appointment at Smith Pharmacy.