If modeling by epidemiologists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay Boozman College of Public Health for the state’s coronavirus impact is right, the state’s cumulative cases should hit 94,681 by Oct. 19, seven days from now. That would be an increase of 5,811 over Tuesday’s cumulative of 88,870 (based on polymerase chain reaction tests alone, not antigen tests). That’s not far off the past seven-day trend: Between Oct. 7 and today, 5,121 cases based on PCR tests were added.
The modeling report, released today, also included data from the Arkansas Pandemic Poll that continues to show that Blacks and Hispanics are suffering more than whites when it comes to food insecurity, income and future employment.
The report also predicts a cumulative hospitalization total of 6,542 by Oct. 19 (an additional 473; compare to 220 Oct. 7-13) and a death total of 1,674 (an additional 211; compare to 143 Oct. 7-13). By Oct. 19, 6 percent of persons in the age 35-59 age bracket who’ve tested positive will be hospitalized, the report says, and that group will have the highest cumulative number of hospitalizations. By Oct. 19, of those ages 60-74 who’ve tested positive, 18 percent will be hospitalized, and for adults 75 and older, 25 percent will be hospitalized.
The short-term modeling is based on information from the Arkansas Department of Health and assumes similar testing and positivity trends and no changes in behavior or other factors. The reports project 15 days out, but do not provide daily totals.
The long-term (and less accurate) projection puts Arkansas’s peak in early March, with 52,000 active infections and 1,250 people hospitalized. The Sept. 23 report predicted a peak on Feb. 22; the Sept. 8 report put the peak in late December. The long-term projections are based on assumed growth rates in the number of positives; a lower growth rate — flattening the curve — lessons the burden on hospitals.
Counties whose cases increased more than 50 percent between Sept. 23 and Oct. 7 are mostly rural, the report finds. Cases in two counties, Scott and Logan, increased by greater than 300 percent Sept. 23-Oct. 7, and cases in two other counties; Hempstead, Polk and Prairie counties, more than doubled. College of Public Health Dean Mark Williams said in the accompanying video that cases in rural counties followed high numbers in urban areas randomly, popping up like a “whack-a-mole” game, which he said indicated that transmission is more strongly related to events and place than geography.
The College of Public Health also received 2,700 responses to its Arkansas Pandemic Poll using a random digit dial poll strategy. Results reported today:
* Blacks and Hispanics were twice as whites to say face masks are an effective measure to fight the pandemic, and persons over 60 were more than twice as likely as those under 50.
* Asked if they had enough money to buy the food their families needed in the past two weeks, almost 1 in 5 Hispanics and more than 1 in 10 Blacks said they did not. Nearly 600 people who responded to the poll said they did not have the money needed to buy food in the past two weeks, and 1 in 3 said they had had to go hungry.
* Asked if they were afraid of not having the money to pay rent or mortgage, 28 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of Blacks said they were worried. Of all adults under 60, 14 percent said they were worried about having the money to pay rent or mortgage.
* Asked if they were worried about losing their jobs in the next two weeks, more than four times as many Hispanics and twice as many Blacks than whites were worried about their employment.
“The pandemic is not affecting everyone equally,” Williams said. “The racial and ethnic disparities that we see in other aspects of social life are very apparent when we look at COVID-19.”
One-fifth of adults over 60 who are diagnosed are likely to become hospitalized, Williams added, so he is worried about the potential for those adults to become infected as “younger and older family members begin to gather in the same place” over the holidays. “This is one reason the growth in infections among younger adults is so worrisome.”