Arkansas reports largest spike in virus hospitalizations

    (AP) — Arkansas on Tuesday reported its largest one-day increase in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, even as the state’s new virus cases decreased.

    The Department of Health reported 369 people hospitalized in the state because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, an increase of 32 since Monday.

    The department said at least 24,512 people have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 259 new reported cases. The department said 5,486 of those cases are active, meaning they don’t include people who have died or recovered.

    The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the increase in hospitalizations is putting stress on health care workers, but said the state’s hospital system still has capacity to handle the spike.

    “Not minimizing the stress on the system or the people, but there is the capacity to handle what we have and we look at that every day,” Hutchinson said.

    About 28% of Arkansas’ 8,926 hospital beds are available while 16% of the state’s 982 intensive care unit beds remain available, according to the Department of Health. More than 64% of ventilators in the state remain available. The department says 158 of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are in the ICU.

    Health officials said the drop in new cases was due in part to fewer tests performed Monday than in recent days. Arkansas’ cases have been dramatically higher since May when the state began reopening businesses that closed because of the pandemic.

    Nine more people died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total fatalities to 301.

    Two more cities on Monday enacted measures requiring masks in public after Hutchinson said he’d allow such mandates at the local level. Rogers and Conway approved the mask requirements days after Hutchinson’s signed an executive order allowing cities to approve a model ordinance that doesn’t include penalties for not complying.

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