ARKANSAS COVID RATES UP - As More cases of covid-19 get reported all across the country, most attributes the latest spread to the new Delta variant of the Coronavirus. Arkansas currently leads the nation in new infections per-capita and the rate of hospitalizations is also on the increase. A year ago before a vaccine was available, health experts warned of those who were most at risk for succumbing to the virus. The focus was to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly who likely had pre-existing health conditions, usually people over the age of 60. But during an appearance this week on Arkansas Public Television’s “Talk Business and Politics”, Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor for the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences health system – explained the average age of covid patients is trending much lower.
"Now the average age is getting closer and closer to 40," Patterson said."We’re seeing younger people. We’re seeing people who don’t have other medical problems. We’re seeing people who go straight from an initial symptom to needing mechanical ventilation."
And as more people get sick, just like last year at this time, hospitals are bracing for a surge in covid patients as more are beginning to show up and require medical care.
"The hospitals are full, their ERs are full. They’re seeing more patients needing ICU care. They’re seeing younger patients and it’s getting worse on a daily basis,” Patterson said.
Despite having ample supplies of covid vaccine available – Arkansas is among the states with low vaccine participation. Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has been traveling the state holding town halls,”… to get people to talk about their concerns about vaccinations, he shared this on All Things Considered earlier this week.
“I've been to seven cities. We've had incredible conversations. And the key has been that the anti-vaxxers actually show up, and they express their conspiracy theory or their concerns.," Hutchinson explained. "And then somebody from the community stands up and says, well, let me tell you what it did in our family and how important it is to get the vaccination.”
And health experts warn that more people need to get vaccinated because the new Delta variant is more infectious than last year’s Alpha variant. Otherwise the Delta variant could thrive and mutate into an even more virulent strain which current vaccines may not be as effective as they are now. Dr. Cam Patterson of UAMS stresses the urgency.
"Until more people are vaccinated and by whatever means necessary, we need to figure out how people maskup and maintain social distancing and really take this seriously. This is a life-threatening virus at this point." Patterson said.
A report by UAMS released yesterday projects more than 1,000 daily Covid cases in Arkansas for the next week. You’re listening to Red River Radio News.