ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — “The COVID-19 test positivity rate in the state is over 20%. This is five times the national average,” according to the latest pandemic forecast by faculty at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) released on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Testing rates are low and positivity rates are high which is a recipe for “rapid community viral spread,” according to UAMS’ 17-page report. On the upside, two doses of the vaccines are highly effective.

The data used for the UAMS report came from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) through July 11.

UAMS in June said, “COVID-19 is not over in Arkansas. It is, at best, smoldering.” In July, UAMS said, “Well,
COVID is no longer smoldering. It has broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and

By July 26, the 15-day model forecast shows Arkansas’ cumulative cases to be 371,276 — a 16,000 case increase from June 18. The average daily case increase is expected to be more than 1,039. In 30 days, the model forecasts more than twice that daily amount of new cases, according to ADH data.

The 15-day model shows people in the age range of 35 to 59 continue to have the highest number of COVID-19 diagnoses — an average of 372 daily cases. Second, an increase of COVID-19 is children under 17 — an average of 169 daily cases.

Of Arkansas’ 75 counties, one-third had “relative increases in new cases greater than 100%,” according to the report.

The state will see a daily average increase of 37 new hospitalized patients and 20 new ICU patients, according to the 15-day model, and the 30-day model indicates a daily average of 48 new patients. The state is expected to average three COVID-19-related deaths by July 26, which would be 6,043 cumulative deaths, the report shows.

Lastly, all counties in the Natural State have low COVID-19 vaccination rates and no county has “exceeded a 5% increase in the number of persons over 12 who are vaccinated.”

The UAMS monthly report assessed five areas of the pandemic’s impact in Arkansas

  • a look at the pandemic in Arkansas from a longer-term perspective
  • forecasts and projections of cases and maps of community spread
  • forecast models of hospitalizations and patients needing intensive care
  • forecast model of COVID-19 deaths
  • status of COVID-19 vaccination

A look at R naught and the Delta variant

R naught is how many people an infected person infects.

The viral load for the Delta variant is 1,000 times higher than the Alpha variant based on research in Guangzhou China. The much higher viral load allows the Delta variant to spread more quickly, as reflected by its R naught. The R naught of the Delta variant is 6 compared to an R naught of 2.7 of alpha variant, which was considered very high.

What this means is that a person infected with the Delta variant can infect, on average, six additional people.

The final parameter is our ability to detect the virus of interest. It is detectable within four days or 48 hours earlier than the Alpha variant. Tracking infections in the state, will require widespread testing.

Because the Delta variant is more infectious, our opinion is Arkansas may exceed 3,000 new daily infections, the high point of the December/January surge, very quickly. At that point, hospitalizations in the state will begin to challenge the capacity for the system to handle patients.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during a town hall meeting in Texarkana, Ark., regarding COVID-19 vaccines Thursday, July 15, 2021. (Kelsi Brinkmeyer/The Texarkana Gazette via AP)

Community COVID Conversations

Governor Asa Hutchinson continues his series of Community COVID Conversations beginning next week. “The testimony from local health care professionals, community leaders, and former COVID patients has been beneficial in combatting misinformation,” he said.

Hutchinson embarked on a statewide tour as he took over as chairman of the National Governors Association. In that role, he has called combating vaccine resistance a priority, AP reported on July 17, 2021.

Monday, July 26, 2021
11:30 am – Mountain Home
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
11 am – Dumas
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
6 pm – Heber Springs
Friday, July 30, 2021
11 am – Siloam Springs

“At the forums, Hutchinson tries to empathize with the vaccine skeptics’ anti-government, anti-media sentiment. His message: Listen to your own doctors and medical professionals, not conspiracy theories,” AP reported.

On Thursday, July 22, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), chaired by Arkansas Health Director Dr. José Romero, plans to discuss COVID-19 vaccines and benefits, and/or risks. In particular, the group of doctors will be assessing Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) (pronounced: (Ghee-YAN Bah-RAY) and the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. The ACIP will look at Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), and assess the Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) workgroup regarding GBS adverse events.