The state was working to free up intensive care unit beds designed for COVID-19 patients, and to increase staff to care for them on Tuesday.
The state’s COVID-19 ICU beds were full by the time Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a media briefing shortly before noon.
“It should emphasize the need to get our vaccinations done for COVID that are available to you,” Hutchinson said. “This last 24 hours we’ve had 10,950 doses given out, which is not bad, but we need that to increase.”
The state’s ICU capacity for COVID patients barely eased hours after Hutchinson’s announcement, with only one hospital in southeast Arkansas showing availability, according to the state’s system for coordinating coronavirus patients. Virus patients make up about half of the state’s ICU beds. The number of virus patients in ICUs and on ventilators reached a new high in the state on Monday.
“Everyone should know the strain this puts on our hospitals and the need to get our vaccinations and how critical our bed space is,” Hutchinson said.
There were 121 active COVID-19 cases among Jackson County residents reported by the Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday.
The number of deaths among Jackson County residents, due to the virus, is 41, according to the health department. Jackson County has had a total of 3,658 cases.
Arkansas now ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 40 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated.
The state on Tuesday reported more than 2,200 new virus cases and 45 new COVID-19 deaths.
In a University of Arkansas Medical Sciences report issued this week, public health researchers forecast that the state’s death toll from COVID-19 will exceed 7,000 by Aug. 30. Arkansas on Tuesday reported 6,749 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began.
The researchers’ forecast also predicted the number of children hospitalized due to COVID-19 will increase by 20 percent through Aug. 30 and 34 percent through Sept. 14.
Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key said Tuesday that while school districts have seen an increase of students and staff with COVID-19, no districts have had to make modifications to classroom instruction. He also said plans are being made to hold vaccination clinics at some of the state’s big rivalry high school football games this fall.
Hutchinson and Dr. José Romero, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, also both took time to warn people of the harmful effects of taking veterinary-grade ivermectin, which some people have done in an attempt to self-medicate against COVID-19. The drug is used to treat parasitic worms in humans, to treat parasites in horses and cows, and as heartworm medicine for dogs.
The Arkansas Poison Center has received an increasing number of calls regarding individuals who have taken the medication intended for animal or livestock use (such as that purchased at livestock supply companies).
“What we’re seeing across the South,” Romero said, is veterinary-grade ivermectin being taken by humans, both adults and children. He said increasing cases are being reported by poison control centers.
There are approved uses for ivermectin in both humans and animals, but drugs intended for veterinary use are made with higher doses of the medication for use in large animals and can be highly toxic in humans.
Romero said people who have taken the medication should call poison control if they experience nausea, vomiting or neurological symptoms. Other symptoms people may experience from taking veterinary-grade ivermectin include rashes, abdominal pain, and potentially severe hepatitis.
The phone number for the Arkansas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
According to a USA Today report shared on the Arkansas Poison Center’s Facebook page, ivermectin has been among drugs suggested to help treat COVID-19, just as hydroxychloroquine, a drug approved for malaria was, and there is some initial research underway but the FDA has not reviewed data to support use of the drug to prevent COVID-19.