The Arkansas Department of Health reported Tuesday that COVID-19 cases rose 2,620 for a statewide total of 407,892 since March of last year.
Deaths due to the virus rose by 24 for a total of 6,346 since the pandemic began.
At a media briefing Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said 1,435 people had been hospitalized because of COVID-19 and that 294 of them were on ventilators. According to the health department only a dozen intensive care unit beds were available in the state.
“It’s not a good time to get sick because space is limited,” said Hutchinson, who continues to encourage all eligible people to be vaccinated against the virus.
Arkansas’ latest surge of the virus has been brought on by the extra-contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. Arkansas ranks third in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The health department reports that there are 110 active COVID-19 cases among Jackson County residents.
Hutchinson said the state is working with the state hospital association to free up space and noted that lawmakers approved a plan to use $129 million in federal virus relief funds to aid hospitals. The governor said the state is also looking at suggestions from a federal “surge response team” on ways to open hospital space.
Hutchinson announced Tuesday that the state is increasing its Medicaid reimbursement rate to physicians for COVID-19 vaccinations from $40 to $100. The Medicaid program has only been billed for vaccinating 27,000 of the state’s 627,000 clients on its traditional program 12 and older. Some eligible patients, however, may have had their vaccinations covered by Medicare or did not present their Medicaid card when they were vaccinated.
Hutchinson encouraged people to reach out to Medicaid patients about vaccinations and answer questions they may have. At the same time the governor continues scheduling town hall meetings across the state called Community COVID Conversations to get accurate information to people and to encourage them to be vaccinated.
The state also is purchasing “high efficiency filtration” masks that can be used by children 12 and younger in schools because that age group is unable to be vaccinated against the virus.