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These are featured stories of how the Upper Delta and Mid-South is combating the Coronavirus as well as resources to help those impacted by the pandemic.

Efforts underway to help Arkansas hospitals, public schools amid rising COVID-19 cases

Governor Asa Hutchinson provides an update to media on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, regarding Arkansas’s COVID-19 response. (Courtesy: Governor Asa Hutchinson's Official YouTube Channel)

With hospitalizations continuing to set new daily records, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (Dec. 1) discussed changes to the state’s trauma system to coordinate COVID-19 care, and efforts to expedite bringing teachers into the state’s beleaguered public schools.

The recent spikes in new known COVID-19 cases has put pressure on Arkansas hospitals. Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 30, total cases rose by 38.5%, deaths rose by 26%, known active cases were up 56%, hospitalizations rose by 54.5%, and ventilator use rose by 69%. Hospitalizations reached another daily record Tuesday of 1,074, up 11 from Monday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). And of the 1,147 ICU beds statewide, only 72 were available, according to the ADH.

Total confirmed and probable cumulative cases reported Tuesday totaled 159,309, up 1,950. Total confirmed and probable deaths rose by 10 to 2,512, and total active cases fell by 46 to 16,094.

Troy Wells, CEO of Little Rock-based Baptist Health, said state officials and hospital managers will expand the state’s TraumaComm system to better match patient needs – for COVID and other critical care – with resources available around the state. Wells said the goal is to ensure patients receive the critical care they need, reduce the time to match patients with resources, and help prevent hospitals and healthcare workers from “being overwhelmed.

Gov. Hutchinson said the program will cost about $70,000 to add personnel. The system should be in place within two weeks of being staffed, he said. The governor also said state officials are working with federal Medicaid regulators to expedite the paperwork process and reduce the time now required to move some patients – who have been medically cleared – out of hospitals.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer, deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), said the department will ask the State Board of Education to waive the $75 application fee for new teachers in an effort to alleviate staffing shortages at public schools.

As of Dec. 30, there were 4,598 cumulative active COVID-19 cases among public school faculty and staff, up from 4,282 in the Dec. 25 ADE report. This number does not include teachers and staff who quarantine at home after potential COVID exposure.

Pfeffer said the fee waiver and expedited process could result in up to 500 teachers available to help school districts in the spring semester.

“We would love for it to be more, but that’s our estimate at this time,” Pfeffer said.

New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 139,198 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,127 new community cases and 15 reported cases in correctional facilities
• 20,111 probable cases, up from 19,303 on Monday
• There are 12,409 active cases, down from 12,816 on Monday
• There were 5,161 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 4,365 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours with 862 positives.

Arkansas Department of Health

• 2,304, up 9
• 208 probable COVID-related deaths, up 1

1,074, up 11

195, down 6

Recovered cases

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (178), Benton (171), Washington (140), Saline (101), and Greene (92). The counties accounted for 60.5% of the 1,127 new community cases.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 13,605,981 U.S. cases and 269,192 deaths. Globally, there were 63,556,040 cases and 1,474,643 deaths.