The good news is hospitalizations in Arkansas due to COVID-19 are still dropping. The bad news is that the number of people being put on ventilators keeps going up as we head into a holiday weekend.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. José Romero said Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 patients in the state between the ages of 12 and 18 are increasing rapidly, and that 99.3 percent of cases identified in the state are do to the Delta variant of the virus, which is more easily transmitted, and is more dangerous for younger patients.

“Every holiday weekend we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve seen a surge in the number of cases, so we are concerned,” Romero said. His comments were part of the regular weekly media update given by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“We’re concerned about Labor Day coming up,” Hutchinson said, as well as school activities, including sporting events, that may enhance the spread of the virus. He said the state is continuing to monitor hospital space and capacity, and that 30 percent of current active COVID-19 cases in the state are among people under age 18.

Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key said that after Labor Day, the next delivery of high efficiency masks to protect students from the virus will be shipped out to public schools, including masks for younger children. Children 12 and younger are not able to be vaccinated yet against COVID-19. Key said vaccination clinics will continue to be held at some schools, including during high school football games.

On Tuesday the department of health reported 2,626 new COVID-19 cases in the state and an increase of 22 deaths. Total hospitalizations because of the virus dropped by 45 people for a total of 1,212, but the number of patients on ventilators in the state increased by 27 to a total of 388.

As of Tuesday, the department of health reported 117 active COVID-19 cases among Jackson County residents, and 41 deaths from the virus. Jackson County has had a total of 3,718 cases among its residents since the pandemic began.

Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Hospitalizations in Arkansas for COVID-19 have dropped each day for nearly a week and vaccination rates have increased.

“The decline in hospitalizations is hopeful, but cases and hospitalizations still remain high in the state, and our health care system is still strained,” Health Department communications director Meg Mirivel said in a statement at the beginning of the week. Hutchinson said that while virus cases are still high in the state, early use of antibody treatments that can help blunt the worst effects of COVID-19 is helping to reduce hospitalizations.

Arkansans ages 12 or older are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Call the department of health vaccine clinic call center at 1-800-985-6030 for information on vaccine clinics, or visit the website healthy.arkansas.gov.

Also on Tuesday attorneys for the state’s Republican legislative leaders asked the state Supreme Court to stay a judge’s ruling blocking Arkansas’ ban on mask mandates. A Pulaski County judge issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which bans mask requirements by schools and other government entities.

The filing argued that allowing mask mandates interfered with efforts to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“Mandates exacerbate distrust in the vaccines and in government efforts to encourage vaccinations among the people that are the target of the State’s COVID-19 public health policy – the remaining unvaccinated Arkansans,” the filing by the attorneys for House Speaker Matthew Shepherd and Senate President Jimmy Hickey said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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