LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday that the number of active cases of COVID-19 is continuing to drop in Arkansas and that changes have been made to the state’s pandemic rental assistance program.
New data from the Arkansas Department of Health shared by the governor showed the active case count in the state now sits at 19,500, declining for the fourth day in a row. The state added 2,181 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total during the pandemic to 467,496.
The ADH also reported 34 Arkansans died in the last day from the virus, bringing the total to 7,142.
Currently, there are 1,209 COVID-19 patients in the state, a drop of 19 from the previous day, and one patient came off a ventilator, moving that number down to 320.
The number of vaccinations picked up following a holiday weekend slowdown, with 7,717 doses given in the last day. There currently are 1,258,009 Arkansans fully immunized from the virus, an increase of 4,772 in 24 hours, while another 323,204 residents are partially immunized.
Hutchinson started his briefing by announcing updates to the state’s pandemic rental assistance program. A significant change was the state moving away from a requirement to have landlords have all documentation submitted for applications to be processed, an issue noted as a problem by many applicants.
He noted that currently there are 8,903 applications waiting on information to be processed, with around 6,000 of those held up by the prior landlord information requirement.
The governor also said that applications from tenants who had been served eviction notices were being prioritized for processing. He added that the contractor handling staffing for this program was also increasing personnel for the effort, moving the total number of staffers to 160.
In total, Hutchinson said the state had received 15,139 applications for pandemic rental assistance, 3,266 of which had received aid to the tune of $9.8 million.
The governor explained that the state was allotted $173 million in federal funding for the program but estimated that if every current case was fully funded the total outlay of money would only reach around $40 million. He also noted that the state’s three most populated counties – Washington, Pulaski and Benton – all received direct funding separate from the rest of the state.
Hutchinson said that as of 10 a.m. there were 23 ICU beds open in Arkansas, at least 10 of which could be used for COVID-19 patients. He also said that he expected 27 more ICU beds to be added in the state over the next month.
The governor also announced a 20-person military medical team was coming to assist with efforts at UAMS. The team, consisting of 14 nurses, four physicians and two respiratory therapists, is coming at no cost to the state and should be here for at least 30 days.
Continuing a trend of touting the effectiveness of vaccinations, Hutchinson shared data showing that since February, 90 percent of total cases, 91.53 percent of hospitalizations and 90.04 percent of deaths were seen in those who were unvaccinated.
Education Secretary Johnny Key noted that after three weeks of class, schools without mask mandates had seen 596 COVID-19 cases, while districts with partial mask mandates had 344 cases and those with full mask policies had 372.
Key said two districts in the state, Lafayette and Western Yell County, had to move fully to virtual learning due to COVID-19 case counts, as did one school in the Rogers school district. Key said he believed the issues in these cases were low area vaccination levels.