63 confirmed cases of omicron variant in Arkansas, Department of Health says, as state sees 981 new cases on Monday

Arkansas now has 63 confirmed cases of the highly contagious variant of covid-19 omicron, State Chief Medical Officer Dr Jennifer Dillaha said on Monday.

But they only represent a fraction of the covid cases overall; most of those tested are caused by the delta variant, according to the state Department of Health.

The news comes as covid-19 hospitalizations rose from 37 to 519 on Monday – an unprecedented daily increase since September 1 – and the number of cases in the state that were considered active rose to 10,090, the highest number since September 30. .

“We continue to monitor the increase in hospitalizations statewide,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on social media Monday afternoon. “More than 87% of COVID hospitalizations go unvaccinated, which shows the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing serious illness. Get vaccinated this week as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

The state had previously confirmed only two cases of omicron on Friday, although an out-of-state lab in the Memphis area reported numerous positive tests for the variant in northeast Arkansas.

Dillaha said on Monday that these and other cases are included in the 63 confirmed cases of the variant.

Craighead County in northeast Arkansas saw the largest daily increase on Monday, with an additional 180 new cases – more than double the 83 new cases reported on December 1.

The seventh largest county in the state in terms of population was rarely on the Department of Health’s daily list of counties with the most new cases until this month.

After Craighead County, Pulaski County recorded the most new cases on Monday with 164, followed by Washington County with 78.

Craighead County, with 1,202 active cases as of Monday, is quickly catching up to the more populous Pulaski County, which had 1,332 active cases.

A report released on Monday by the Department of Health shows that on Christmas Day more than 91% of covid-19 cases in the state are caused by the delta variant while less than 0.1% are attributed to omicron .

The Department of Health does not test all covid-19 samples for variants, but only from a “very small sample of non-random convenience cases,” according to the report.

“It is important to understand that this information is not representative of all cases and does not reflect the overall burden of the disease,” Health Secretary Jose Romero said in the report. “It is assumed that there are many more people affected than the report shows.”

Dillaha said studies in the UK and South Africa indicate that people who have received only two doses of the covid-19 vaccine are less protected against infection with the omicron variant than those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted.

“People who have received two doses plus a booster dose have much greater protection against infection,” Dillaha said. “Two doses is still very effective in preventing hospitalizations.”

The health ministry expects a wave of new cases after the holidays, Dillaha said.

“Holidays spent during the pandemic have often resulted in an increase in cases, and we are already seeing an increase in cases before the holidays,” she said. “We will therefore be monitoring the magnitude of the increase after Christmas and New Years.”


As hospitalizations increase, hospitals across the state are monitoring cautiously and staying on their toes if there is a sharp increase.

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Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock is seeing record numbers of people at its Covid-19 driving test site, spokeswoman Cara Wade said.

“Today we tested 725 people at this location and the previous record was 500,” Wade said in an email. “Our 28% positivity rate is also a new record. And, over 90% of our positive tests have markers for omicron.”

The hospital system as a whole is also seeing a “slight trend” with an increase in hospitalizations related to covid-19, Wade said.

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Baptist Health had 112 covid-19 patients on Monday. As of December 10, that number was 97 and a few weeks earlier it was 60 inpatients, Wade said.

“In the last wave of the summer, 300 was the highest number of covid-19 patients at Baptist Health,” Wade said. “Of the 112 hospitalized at Baptist Health today, 38 of them are in an intensive care unit and 26 are on a ventilator (our maximum was 103). In addition, our emergency room volume has increased. the last days.”

The number of covid-19 cases has remained stable for CHI St. Vincent, Bonnie Ward, CHI St. Vincent’s director of marketing and communications, said in an email. Ward has not released specific capacity figures.

“But our healing ministry has seen an increase in the number of patients seeking COVID-19 tests, positive test results, and a demand for monoclonal antibody therapy,” Ward said. “CHI St. Vincent is closely monitoring developments related to new variants of COVID-19 and the possibility of a further increase in cases. Our ministry is coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Health and federal agencies to stay prepared and has existing augmentation plans in place to ensure we can continue to meet the critical care needs of those we need. let’s serve. “

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According to the Department of Health on Monday, 188 covid-19 patients were in intensive care units, a drop of five from Sunday.

The number of patients on ventilators fell from 11 to 107 statewide, the department reported.

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981 new cases were added on Monday, 547 more cases than those reported the previous Monday. Since the pandemic hit the state in March, there have been a cumulative total of 551,394 cases.

Deaths from the virus increased from 15 to 9081.


The number of doses of vaccine providers reported giving increased from 1,248 to 3,666,997.

The number of fully immunized individuals increased by 351, for a total of 1,498,793, or 52.7%, of Arkansans aged 5 years and over. The number of Arkansans partially immune to the virus increased by 100, to 349,391, or 12.3%, of the population aged 5 and over.

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As of Monday, 418,771 third doses of vaccine had been administered.


There were 2,868 newly reported covid-19 tests, including 2,248 PCR tests and 620 antigen tests.

Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 5,719,249 tests have been reported. Of that number, 575,256 were positive for covid-19, according to data from the Department of Health.

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