COVID-19 headlines galore today as the Trent Garner Memorial Surge continues in Arkansas.
As we mentioned earlier, UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson says the University Hospital is full and sticking patients wherever it can, with staffing a concern.
No wonder the New York Times is on the scene with an extensive story for the big Sunday paper, now online, about Arkansas’ national leadership — not as the coding state as the governor might wish, but as the COVID state. I agree with City Director Kathy Webb’s sentiment expressed in her Tweet about the story.
via @NYTimes Our legislature making it harder to protect our state from virus. The rising numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are truly not something to double down on. It makes zero sense. #getashot #wearamask https://t.co/rE4TlJCFGy
— Kathy Webb (@KathyLWebb) July 17, 2021
The Times report brings tales of woe from Baxter County, where about a third of those eligible are vaccinated. The reporter met people who suffered from the illness who still won’t get vaccinated. The fact — no disrespect intended, General Bledsoe — is that cases are rising most in counties with the lowest vaccination rates. Baxter County is one of those and its hospital is swamped. From the article:
Overall, Arkansas ranks near the bottom of states in the share of population that is vaccinated. Only 44 percent of residents have received at least one shot.
“Boy, we’ve tried just about everything we can think of,” a retired National Guard colonel, Robert Ator, who runs the state’s vaccination effort, said in an interview. For about one in three residents, he said, “I don’t think there’s a thing in the world we could do to get them to get vaccinated.”
For that, the state is paying a price. Hospitalizations have quadrupled since mid-May. More than a third of patients are in intensive care. Deaths, a lagging indicator, are also expected to rise, health officials said.
I suspect Ator is right. It’s why I responded earlier this afternoon to a Twitter comment on Governor Hutchinson’s weekly schedule, which currently lists no news briefing: “What really could he say?” He’s urged vaccinations repeatedly. He’s offered incentives. He’s also been stripped of all emergency power by the legislature which has mandated a ban on masks and vaccination requirements. He could call a special session to reinstitute mandatory measures, but he was resistant to those from the beginning and would be swiftly rebuked by the legislature, few of whom are speaking publicly to encourage vaccinations.
The rise in statewide vaccinations reported Friday was a good sign. Perhaps the widespread news of ill consequences has encouraged some with doubts to take a risk and get a shot that has been administered to more than 1 million Arkansans without, so far as we know, significant ill consequences. In Baxter County and at UAMS the surge has brought an increase in demand for shots, hospital officials said. The Times story is otherwise rich with medical horror stories.
The governor added to this theme Saturday evening.
Also today: You have Guardsmen (vaccinated at about the same rate as the state) testing positive during summer drills.
Outbreak at Natl Guard training camp: Arkansas National Guard sees increase of COVID-19 cases after training trip https://t.co/lEeAI8jzRn
— James Graham (@jamesgraham714) July 17, 2021
On that cheery note, the line is open.