LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences took to Twitter Wednesday to voice his concerns regarding a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Arkansas, especially in younger patients.
In a series of tweets, Dr. Cam Patterson starts by first commending the turnaround by Arkansas public health officials in getting active case numbers lowered and in promoting vaccine use before voicing concern over vaccination rates in the state that are still below par compared to the rest of the nation.
According to Patterson, only 40 percent of Arkansans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, with an additional 9.2 percent partially vaccinated. The doctor contended those low vaccination rates are still not giving substantial benefit to Arkansans communities, saying “We HAVE TO do better.”
The UAMS head said that even as the rate of new COVID-19 cases appears “relatively flat,” his hospital is seeing a spike in “seriously ill patients,” a trend he says is consistent with statewide data.
Patterson noted that the testing rate in Arkansas is among the lowest in the U.S., which he says is driving the drop in new cases reported.
Instead, he says tracking the trends of patients requiring higher levels of care, like being in the ICU or on a ventilator, shows Arkansas is “going in the wrong direction” in the coronavirus fight.
Patterson notes that he believes the virus is mutating, with the Delta variant circulating in the state and leading to more patients in their “40s & 50s & 20s & even late teens” requiring higher levels of care.
“It has been heartbreaking for me to see young mothers & fathers in our ICUs requiring mechanical support because of COVID-19 infection,” he posted.
The delay in Arkansans using available vaccine doses to fight the virus, Patterson believes, could lead to a continued crest of cases that could stretch into to fall and come with even more damaging variants.
In addition to the general health concerns, Patterson said the consequences of delays in vaccinations are becoming a huge economic burden, with continued financial stress pushing already challenged health care providers and hospitals, as well as the larger perception of Arkansas being a “dirty” state in terms of the COVID-19 response slowing business and cash from flowing into the state.
In closing, Dr. Patterson says, “To reiterate, regarding COVID-19, Arkansas is at best, smoldering.”
As of Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 2,144 active COVID-19 cases in the state, with 47 patients on ventilators. The records show 950,497 Arkansans had been fully immunized, with another 227,648 being partially immunized.