Of the 988 people who died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic since January, 98.6 percent had not been fully vaccinated, Dr. Cam Patterson, CEO of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said Tuesday.

During Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s weekly briefing with reporters, Patterson said hospitalizations have been on the rise in the past three weeks, and the number of patients on ventilators has more than tripled in the past eight weeks.

“With the July 4th holiday coming up and, eventually, kids going back to school, we have to be concerned that this could be a trend that could continue,” Patterson said. “And if it does, it would appear that we may be at the beginning of the third surge of COVID-19 here in the state of Arkansas.”

Patterson said hospital administrators in other regions of the state have seen a resurgence of severe cases. New patients are trending sicker than they were a year ago, Patterson said, adding that some patients in their 20s are finding themselves on heart-lung bypass machines.

What’s worse, more than 25 percent of the new cases appear to be from the Delta variant, which originated in India.

“And my anticipation is that within a week or two, the Delta variant will be over half of the cases of COVID-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” Patterson warned, adding that Delta spreads almost twice as easily as the original virus.

“But more importantly, it attacks younger individuals and it produces more severe disease,” Patterson said. “This is not losing your sense of smell and a bad case of flu. This is immediately coming into the hospital and being put on a ventilator.”

Arkansas reportedly ranks ahead of only Alabama and Mississippi in the number of fully vaccinated adults, with 38.6 percent age 12 and older fully vaccinated as of Monday. Here in Northeast Arkansas, the percentages are even lower.

Here are the figures for full and partial vaccinations of persons age 12 and older in Northeast Arkansas as of Monday:

Craighead, 29,473 (32.1 percent), 7,586 (8.26 percent).

Clay, 4,380 (34.92 percent), 474 (3.78).

Cross, 5,038 (36.21 percent), 819 (5.89 percent).

Greene, 12,147 (31.877 percent), 2,061 (5.41).

Jackson, 4,134 (28.51 percent), 671 (4.63 percent).

Lawrence, 4,319 (30.74 percent), 875 (6.23).

Mississippi, 9,262 (27.5 percent), 1,836 (5.45 percent).

Poinsett, 5,791 (29.23 percent), 1,454 (7.34 percent).

Randolph, 3,410 (22.51 percent), 1,149 (7.59 percent).

Hutchinson said, “I don’t think there’s anything more the government can do except to be honest with everyone.”

He said the best incentive for residents to get vaccinations is to see the reality.

“And that is whenever you see the Delta variant wreaking havoc and causing people to go to the hospital, that’s a reality check and should cause and encourage people to get vaccinated,” he said.

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