Vaccinations rising following a lull

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A coalition of healthcare providers in Northwest Arkansas has warned that the region is experiencing a surge in hospitalizations for Covid-19 with the number of patients increasing from 13 on June 17 to 83 on July 19.

“Over 99 percent of our patients are not vaccinated,” states a press release from six major hospitals and clinics in Northwest Arkansas. “Our current surge is doubling the number Covid-19 hospitalizations about every 20 days.”

Statewide, a surge linked to low vaccination numbers combined with the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, showed an additional 2,500 new cases over the weekend with the number of active cases in the state estimated at more than 10,000—the highest number since Feb. 15. The state’s increase in Covid hospitalizations on July 19 was 79, the largest increase in a single day so far. The state also surpassed having more than 6,000 deaths from complications of Covid-19.

“We are the hot spot in the whole country from the per capita numbers I’ve seen,” Dr. Dan Bell, who has been spearheading efforts by the ECHO Clinic to provide vaccinations, said. “It is the result of a low vaccination rate and people carrying on as life as usual without masks and social distancing. The reality is the Delta variant is creating quite a spike, and people are getting more breakthrough infections. It is time to be more cautious. Mask up again. Social distance.”

Bell emphasizes that it is not too late to get vaccinated. Plenty of vaccines are available, and the shots are free. Statewide about 11,500 vaccinations were given in Arkansas July 15 and 16, the biggest numbers the state has seen in a while. You can get Moderna shots from ECHO volunteers Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Smith Drugs. To make an appointment, call (479) 253-9175.

By July 16, in the previous two weeks, the number of hospitalized patients in Carroll County increased by 143 percent, and one additional death was reported bringing the total to 47, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between July 2 and July 16, Carroll County averaged 37 cases per 100,000 compared to five cases per 100,000 in the state of New York and 10 cases per 100,000 in the U.S. As of July 19, the Arkansas Department of Health listed 99 active cases of Covid-19 in Carroll County.

About 29 percent of people in Carroll County have been vaccinated, while the rate is 37 percent for those 18 and above and 53 percent for people age 65 and up.

“I think you have to trust the experts who have devoted their lives to learning about it and studying it,” Bell said. “We have to take their advice and not fringe advice. More than 300 million shots have been given in the U.S. with no significant side effects occurring. Side effects are rare and certainly far less than the effects of getting Covid.”

Bell said local healthcare practitioners were seeing a lot more cases the week of July 12-16.

Catherine Pappas, community liaison and educator for the Eureka Springs Hospital, reports increased interest in vaccinations. Pappas is arranging vaccination clinics on demand out in the community as long as there are five people scheduled. Anyone with questions or who wants to schedule an appointment can call her at (281) 382-0054.

Pappas said their hospital vaccination clinic July 16 had 33 people show up for shots including 30 people who were getting the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a second dose in three weeks to be fully effective. The hospital also offered shots at the Berryville Community Center July 19, and Pappas said a number of those shots went to older people wanting their first vaccine.

“I’m hearing more and more people now really want to get the vaccine,” Pappas said. “That is very encouraging. More people are taking it seriously now. Now we are seeing people who were waiting for full FDA approval or didn’t want it at all are starting to come in and get this vaccine. More children are coming in. The adults who have had the vaccine are bringing their children in for it, and what I’m hearing is that people want their children to go back to school fully vaccinated.”

Pappas said they are hoping to start having two vaccine clinics a week to open it up for people who can’t come on Friday. They hope to start offering the shots on Wednesdays.

Pappas said people coming into the emergency room at the hospital for a different diagnosis are being tested for Covid even if they are fully immunized. Some fully immunized patients who tested positive didn’t know they had Covid.

According to Katie White, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, from January 25 through July 13, 98.5 percent of the deaths were in people who were not vaccinated. White said from January 25 through July 13, 3.5 percent of Covid cases in Arkansas were in fully vaccinated people.

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