VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Fear looms as we head into a set of winter holidays.

Arkansas has already surpassed UAMS COVID-19 projections that predicted hundreds of Arkansans will die from the coronavirus in the coming weeks.

The model projected just over 3,100 cumulative deaths by December 28.

On Tuesday, December 22, Arkansas is well over 3,300 confirmed and probable deaths — almost a week before that date.

Those projections don’t take into account the potential for a holiday spike, which according to UAMS College of Public Health, Dean Mark Williams, there’s no doubt that after Christmas and New Year’s the numbers will sky-rocket.

“We all want to enjoy our families of course and have a celebration because it is the holidays, but this year it just doesn’t pay to do that,” he said. “Most of our homes, as [far] as a virus is concerned, have poor ventilation, so we’re sitting in a small space breathing each other’s air.”

The chances of the virus to spread are almost ideal.


With this possible COVID-19 surge after the holidays in mind, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday the state is creating 124 additional new hospital beds.

The beds will be in two locations — Central Arkansas and Van Buren.

Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells said other services offered at these locations make it a great spot to create this new alternative care site.

Pharmacy, respiratory care, nutrition and food services, environmental services, lab, and diagnostic imaging. All of these services being co-located with these expansions will really help us provide that much easier rather than try to recreate that in an off-site location.


Regardless of a great location or not, Williams fears it won’t be enough.

“We can make more beds. that’s not an issue,” Williams said. “The issue is the number of people — physicians, nurses, who are trained to give the kind of care that can literally save someone’s life.”