COVID-19 in Arkansas: State sees record hospitalizations as Gov. Hutchinson announces new $7.4M project to expand beds

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Only a few days before Christmas, and after a week of record-breaking numbers, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced 43 new deaths and 1,941 new cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has seen a total of 3,338 deaths from the virus and 205,048 total cases.

The Department of Public Health also reported 25 new hospitalizations, driving the total active hospitalizations of a record number of 1,103 patients. There are currently 173 patients on ventilators.

Hutchinson also announced a new plan to work with Baptist Health to expand the total number of beds available for COVID-19 patients in the state and build out an additional care site.

The $7.4 million plan would build out an additional 124 beds across multiple locations in the state, providing a mix of regular care and intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients.

Hutchinson noted that current hospital capacity is holding in Arkansas but said that a possible spike in cases that could come out of the holiday season could push those hospitals to and past their limits.

Work reconfiguring a conference center on the Baptist Health campus in Little Rock is already underway and is expected to take 4-5 weeks to complete. When done, hospital officials expect the new facility to have up to 50 new beds for patients.

The second location in Van Buren will hold up to 74 more patients but will take 6-8 weeks to complete, including 8 ICU beds.

Baptist Health president and CEO Troy Wells said the benefit of building these expansions on current health campuses will allow for faster access for testing and pharmacy services as more patients are admitted.

The governor also announced 12,969 frontline healthcare workers have now received Pfizer’s vaccine, noting that 23,400 more first-round Pfizer doses were headed to the state, along with 17,700 doses of the recently approved Moderna vaccine.

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