Ashley County has reached its record high number of COVID-19 cases this week.

As of Monday afternoon, the county had 96 active confirmed cases and 13 probable cases. Cases are considered probable if they are diagnosed using non-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods.

While the county’s number of cases has increased significantly over the last month, the number of deaths — 13 — has remained steady.

Statewide, the number of cases has also grown, now totaling 17,646 active cases. Statewide, 2,357 people have died.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday that 10 percent of the state’s hospital beds were dedicated to COVID-19 patients, and that while that number still left room, it appeared to be moving upward.

“It shows a trend line, but it shows the fact that we have a lot of other health needs in Arkansas that we have to manage, but the COVID is occupying a significant percent of the metrics,” he said.

In order to deal with the strain on hospital staffs, Hutchinson said the state board plans to complete a 24-hour turnaround on licensing with no licensure fees for the 1,024 student nurses set for pinning this fall.

“Their talents, their hearts are critically needed,” Hutchinson said.

State Secretary of Health Jose Romero said that the state still has beds at this time, “But in the previous holidays we have seen surges in the number of cases that occur afterwards. We have a high occupancy already.”

Romero said he was highly discouraging people from traveling outside the area, and that gatherings of fewer than 10 people would be advisable in the coming weeks. 

He also encouraged anyone who plans to travel for the holidays to be tested for COVID-19 before they go.

The secretary was able to offer some hope for the coming year, however, saying that application for one COVID-19 vaccine had already been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval, and that a second vaccine would likely be submitted in the near future.

“Those vaccines will be available next month for high-risk individuals,” he said.


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