COVID cases surge in Arkansas as delta variant of concern spreads


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Cases of COVID-19 have doubled in the U.S. in the past two weeks, and Arkansas is becoming a case study in how low vaccination rates can fuel the spread of the virus.

Arkansas continues to be the nation’s top state for new cases per capita, and only 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus appears to be largely sparing vaccinated people from the most severe illness.

“Of all of our critically ill COVID positive patients at Baptist Health facilities, none have been fully vaccinated,” said Stephanie Whitaker, chief nursing executive for Baptist Health, a major healthcare provider in the state.

The state’s Department of Health said there are 240 COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs and 118 on ventilators. Only 4% of the state’s intensive care unit beds are available.

Arkansas has a history of a lax pandemic response and was one of only seven states that did not issue a stay-at-home order for nonessential activities in March and April 2020 in response to the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, cases rose in all 50 states for the week ending Friday, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Also in the news:

Andy Slavitt, a former adviser to the Biden administration on COVID-19, said said on Twitter that misinformation has wrongly convinced “just enough US communities that a vaccine was worse than COVID.” He said U.S. access to vaccines is the “envy of the world.”

Vaccinated ESPN host and analyst Jay Williams won’t be broadcasting the remainder of the NBA Finals after testing positive for COVID-19.

President Joe Biden and the White House pointed the finger at social media companies for the recent surge of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated, accusing them of allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread online.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida jumped 73% from mid-June, ending months of steady decline that began when widespread vaccinations became available.

Republicans in the Idaho Senate are declining to reconvene the state legislature amid calls for legislation to prevent employers from requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, lawmakers said Friday.

The British government still plans to lift all remaining legal restrictions on social contact, as well as other public health measures on Monday, despite the U.K. recording more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in six months and a dire warning from the British government’s top medical adviser.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 608,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 189 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. More than 160…

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