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.”

HOSPITALIZATIONS

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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