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Arkansas Governor Seeks $4.7M for More Hospital Beds in Omicron Surge

Some 74% of the new COVID cases being diagnosed in Arkansas are among unvaccinated residents, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
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Some 74% of the new COVID cases being diagnosed in Arkansas are among unvaccinated residents, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

As COVID hospitalization in Arkansas hit their highest levels of the pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the state Legislature to allocate funds to open up more beds.

On Monday, Arkansas reported more than 1,800 people hospitalized for COVID-19, a record high Hutchinson said is straining the health-care system. In his weekly news briefing Tuesday, he called on the Arkansas Legislative Council to approve $4.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds to allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to purchase and staff 28 additional hospital beds and seven ICU beds.

"Even though we hope that hospitalizations will decline, the number is still very high, and it's really causing a backlog and a challenge for our ambulance drivers," Hutchinson said. "Those that are bringing patients to the emergency rooms, we're challenged there and we need to have that relief."

Despite record-shattering hospitalizations, active cases appear to be on the decline. The state is averaging a little less than 8,000 COVID cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

During the latest surge, said Secretary of Health Jose Romero, Arkansas exceeded its high-water mark for pediatric hospitalizations.

"Although the numbers are going down, other children are still going to be infected and that number will exceed where we are today," Romero said. "So please, get your vaccinations. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do so - and of course, get the vaccinations for your children. It's a safe and effective vaccine. It is the way to protect them."

On Tuesday, the governor also announced a new partnership between Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas Department of Transportation and phone carriers that creates a non-emergency hotline for motorists. By dialing *277, drivers can reach their closest state trooper headquarters to report stranded motorists or suspicious activity.

Copyright 2022 KASU

Emily Scott
Arkansas News Service