The Arkansas Leader

Virus surge fills up beds in hospitals

Thanksgiving spike has overwhelmed medical staff as deaths, infections soar.

Can the two newly approved COVID-19 vaccines already being administered in Arkansas and elsewhere dampen the spread of the virus before hospitals run out of ICU beds and skilled personnel?
So far, Arkansas has taken receipt of about 50,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines and is scheduled to get about that much from the other provider, Moderna.
More than 1,000 Arkansans have been hospitalized for the COVID-19 virus since Nov. 24, topping off Christmas Eve with 1,110 in the hospital, an increase of seven over Tuesday’s report. Those are the two highest numbers of Covid hospitalizations in the state.
One fifth of hospitals in the U.S. with intensive care units are at 95 percent capacity or more for Covid ICU beds, according to a New York Times analysis. Nationwide, 78 percent of ICU beds were occupied.
Statewide, 80 percent of ICU beds in Arkansas are filled and in Central Arkansas, the rate is higher.
Like other local and state officials around the country, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday expressed his concern about the diminishing number of ICU beds still available for Covid patients.
Hutchinson, along with Baptist Hospital CEO Troy Wells announced the planned conversion of conference space and other space at two Baptist Hospital campuses to accommodate an additional 124 ICU beds, though many of those beds will be for other-than-Covid patients.
By transferring or admitting non-Covid patients in those new beds, more bed space would open up for Covid patients.
Arkansas is at risk of a severe Covid outbreak, the highest rating on the scale used by Covid ActNow to assess the danger.
The rate of new cases per 100,000 residents is 75.5 daily, which it assesses as a “very dangerous” number of new cases.
Over the last week, Arkansas has averaged 2,278 new confirmed cases per day.
The rating was elevated from critical to extreme.
If the number requiring hospitalization grows, states fear they will have to ration care. For instance, the remaining bed could be assigned to a younger person instead of an older person with serious preexisting conditions.
In CAN’s assessment of “headroom,” Arkansas has 1,018 hospital ICU beds, of which 521 are currently occupied by non-Covid patients. Of the 497 remaining, 311 are needed by Covid cases.
Hospitals may not be well positioned to absorb a wave of new Covid infections without surge capacity.
Arkansas has the 11th highest number of new cases per 100,000 population.
In Hutchinson’s Wednesday update, the Arkansas Depart-ment of Health reported 2,893 new cases; 22,516 active cases; 1,110 hospitalized, which is up 7 from Tuesday; 174 on ventilators, which is up 1 from Tuesday; deaths added today, 38, for a total of 3,376; a total of 207,941 cases; 155,447 recoveries; PCR tests, 8,604; antigen tests, 3,697.
The Health Department reported that the top counties for new cases are Washington, 272; Pulaski, 265; Benton, 260; Faulkner, 123; and Craighead, 109.
“Today’s high number of cases is concerning as we’re two days away from Christmas,” said Hutchinson. “This is frequently a time to gather with our family in large groups, but this year that presents an increased risk of spreading COVID-19, so let’s plan with our safety guidelines in mind. Please protect yourself and your family.”
Using data from Dec. 4 through 10, The New York Times reported that the average among 11 hospitals in the greater Little Rock area is 41 Covid patients, with 14 available ICU beds and with 77 percent of ICU beds occupied.
Using Dec. 17 occupancy data self-reported to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Times reports:
Of cities near Little Rock, there are 24 ICU beds in Searcy, all full. In Little Rock, 82 percent of ICU beds are occupied — 245 of 298 beds.
Fifty-seven of 58 ICU beds are full in North Little Rock, that’s 98 percent.
In Pine Bluff, 99 percent of the beds are full, or 14 out of 15.
Here are some hospital specific numbers in Central Arkansas:
The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 for Little Rock area hospitals increased from the seven-day Dec. 4-10 report compiled by the New York Times and most recently compiled between Dec. 11–17.
Baptist Health Extended Care Hospital’s ICU beds were still full.
• Arkansas Children’s Hospital has 10 Covid patients, with no ICU beds available.
• Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock has 54 Covid patients, up from 46 in the previous report. That’s 99 percent of its ICU bed capacity.
• At Pine Bluff’s Jefferson Regional Medical Center, the number of Covid patients has increased by nine to 27 and the ICU bed capacity has increased from 89 percent to 99 percent.
• CHI St. Vincent North, in Sherwood, still has no Covid patients but with its one remaining ICU bed, capacity was recalculated at 94 percent.
• The number of Covid patients at Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock has doubled to eight and it is now at 93 percent of capacity with a single ICU bed available.
• CHI St. Vincent Infirmary at Little Rock has 55 Covid patients, up from 49, with nine ICU beds available. It is at 88 percent of capacity.
• The number of Covid patients at Baptist Health Medical Center at Little Rock has increased to 121, an increase of nine patients. With 13 beds available, it’s at 87 percent of capacity.
• The number of Covid patients At UAMS Medical Center at Little Rock has dropped from 47 to 43, with 18 beds current available and is at 71 percent capacity.
• Data was not available last week for Cornerstone Specialty Hospital at Little Rock. This week the hospital has 19 beds available.
In some cases, the ICU bed shortage is not the actual number of beds, but the number of beds for which staffing is available.

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