Fayetteville City Health Officer Dr. Marti Sharkey told us she expected we’d be dealing with a third wave of the pandemic at some point in the future, but not right now.
“The healthcare workers that are working in the ICU are exhausted. They weren’t expecting to be fighting this fight this summer, but they are exhausted, and they are treating patients that could’ve prevented themselves from being there,” said Sharkey.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha shares Sharkey’s frustrations. On Thursday, Arkansas saw an increase of more than seven hundred new COVID-19 cases. An increase we as a state hadn’t seen since back in February.
We asked Dillaha what she believes to be causing this new wave in the Natural State; she points to the Delta variant.
“This COVID-19 variant is very infectious. It’s very easy to transmit from person to person; it doubles a person’s risk of being admitted to the hospital,” said Dillaha.
Dillaha admits vaccine hesitancy has also had a role to play. Vaccines that have been anything but easy to distribute here at home. As a nation, we’re 57.4% vaccinated; Arkansas trails that national average is sitting at 34.1%.
“People have great difficulty distinguishing trustworthy accurate information from misinformation out there,” said Dillaha.
Hesitancy‘s health professionals don’t understand after witnessing the consequences firsthand.
“Not just needing to go on a ventilator, but having to go on Heartline bypass. Putting a tube down their throat isn’t going to be enough to save their life; we do not only have to breathe for them, but we also have to pump their blood for them,” said Sharkey.
We also reached out to several hospitals to gauge their concern about the rise in hospitalization. Washington Regional said in a statement it could expand the capacity of its COVID-19 unit if it is necessary. It also has a surge plan that can be activated, allowing it to pivot resources to areas of greatest need.