LITTLE ROCK, Ark – UAMS recorded a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday, the most it’s seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

The hospital says as of Wednesday morning, it had 94 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and 6 or 7 patients in the emergency room bringing the total to 101.

“That is in the past two weeks an increase almost of four times,” UAMS Boozman College of Public Health Dean Mark Williams said.

UAMS says the numbers are likely to get worse over the next few weeks.

A team of researchers at the hospital lined out covid-19 trends for the next month in the state. In their findings, they are predicting 285,000 new cases by February 8. They also say hospitalizations in the state are likely to increase to around 1,700 and new deaths close to 350.

“We were concerned, I’ll put it that way, we were alarmed,” Williams said.

With more hospitalizations predicted in the coming weeks, UAMS leaders say now the focus shifts to making more room.

“We had an all-hands-on-deck approach to discharge patients,” UAMS CEO Steppe Mette said.

Mette says his staff started prepping this past weekend, trying to discharge as many patients as they could safely do to make room for the influx.

Mette says if needed, the hospital can also put two patients in one room, doubling the hospital’s covid capacity.

“We can stretch 60 beds to 120 beds, if need be,” Mette said.

The problem, he says, is when it comes to staff.

“We’ve had to take on more contract labor. Traveling nurses, traveling respiratory therapists to make up for the gap in our staffing,” Mette said.

Mette says contracting comes with an extra cost and that there are limited resources. Their hope is more students will take up nursing as a career path so they can fill gaps in the future.

“We’re able to handle what happens down the road, it just won’t last forever,” Mette said.