In the absence of widespread vaccine distribution, the COVID-19 pandemic will peak in April with 30,000 active infections, the Fay W. Bozeman College of Public Health reported today in its bi-weekly coronavirus forecast. Active infections today: 25,702.

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The state hopes to be vaccinating 1B group, people over the age of 65, by April, but the general population not in priority jobs will still be waiting on vaccine.

The report also predicted 678 Arkansans will die Jan. 3-18, higher than the death toll recorded in the first five months of the pandemic.

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Other points raised in the report, dated Jan. 8:

* The 15-day model, which has been off by only 2%, predicts 37,000 new cases will be reported Jan. 3-15, bringing the state’s cumulative case total to 270,861. Today’s cumulative: 210,873, according to the Department of Health.

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* In the past two weeks in 24 counties, one of every 100 people was newly diagnosed with COVID-19. All counties have COVID case rates greater than 40 per 10,000.

* Numbers in the 15-day period Jan. 3-15 will represent 15% of Arkansas’s entire caseload since March 2020.

* The highest cumulative hospitalization rates per 100,000 population are in the eastern half of Arkansas, with the exception of Ouachita County. Forty-seven counties have hospitalization rates higher than 5 percent: One of every 20 COVID-19 cases originating in these counties requires hospitalization. Phillips County has the highest rate, 9.9 percent, so that one in 10 cases in that county have required hospitalization. The report notes that higher hospitalization rates may indicate less testing capacity, so that people become sicker.

Hospitalization rate by county.

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* Long-term projections are that 1,995 people will be hospitalized with COVID on April 23 (a worst-case scenario puts that number at 4,120).

The report summary:

The most concerning conclusion we can reach from the 15-day models is hospitalizations are forecast to increase by 12% over the numbers for the period between Dec. 19 and Jan. 3. If this forecast holds true, there will be extreme pressure on the health care system in Arkansas. While the state may not exceed its capacity to provide hospital care, the system will nevertheless be severely tested.

The 15-day models are forecasting the greatest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 will be in adults 60 to 74. Almost one in four adults 60 and over who test positive for COVID-19 will likely be hospitalized. Moreover, older age adults have shown a steep increase in the number of hospitalizations, and may cross the 35-59 age group to become the group with the second highest number of hospitalizations. At least as worrisome is the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients over the age of 75. COVID-19 patients 75 and over tend to have more severe symptoms and are likely to have underlying comorbidities.

The per capita hospitalization rate and the rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 patients strongly suggest an increasing pressure on regional and county hospitals due to COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in larger urban areas, including UAMS, should expect not just pressure from COVID-19 cases originating in the cities where they are located, but also from transfers, as regional and county hospitals are unable to meet the demand or provide care for patients with severe COVID-19 disease.”

The hospital situation is already dire, with ICU beds full in parts of Arkansas.