The trend of COVID-19 cases spiking across the country is being seen in Arkansas as well, including in Ashley County.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported Monday that Ashley County had 49 active cases of COVID-19.While that’s still far below the triple-digit numbers of infections that the county reported during the surges in summer 2020 and winter 2021, it still represents a significant increase over the single-digit lows reached earlier this summer.

Statewide, the number of active cases jumped to more than 15,000 over the weekend and 919 people were hospitalized with 173 of them on ventilators.

In light of the surge, Gov. Asa Hutchinson decided to extend the series of so-called Community COVID Conversations he has been hosting across the state, and this week will address groups in the northwest, the southeast and central Arkansas. 

The governor’s messaging focuses on getting people vaccinated against the virus.

“It’s critical we continue to have these discussions around Arkansas to ensure people have the facts and science behind these vaccines,” Hutchinson said. “The testimony from local health care professionals, community leaders, and former COVID patients has been beneficial in combatting misinformation.”

Arkansans 12 and older can now receive the vaccine, which can be gotten at community pharmacies, health units and vaccine clinics.

Partially driving the current surge in cases is the so-called Delta variant of COVID-19, a viral mutation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say seems, “to spread more easily and quickly than other variants which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.”

Commenting on the number of cases identified Sunday, Hutchinson posted online, “Today’s increase of 44 hospitalizations is a reflection of a Delta Variant that will not be tamed until more get vaccinated. I can only imagine the strain on our health care workers. Susan and I got fully vaccinated, and we consider it a life saver.”

The CDC says that current studies indicate that vaccines currently authorized on the market appear to work against Delta and other variants. 

The renewed push for vaccination — and possibly word of the surge itself — appears to have had some effect. The state reported Friday that the number of administered vaccine doses saw its highest increase in weeks, though when he shared the news Hutchinson said that, “We’re in a race to get more vaccines into arms before school starts.”

The health department’s advice to protect against the virus remains the same as in previous months:

-Get the COVID-19 vaccine.

-Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

-Practice physical distancing. Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick, by keeping at least 6 feet between you and others.

-If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, seek testing. 

-Wear a face covering when you are exposed to non-household members and physical distancing cannot be assured. 

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