Arkansas reaches new high in COVID-19 hospitalizations

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LITLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations continued climbing to a new high on Monday as the state reported more than 1,100 new coronavirus cases.

The Department of Health said the number of people in the hospital due to the illness caused by the coronavirus increased by 33 to 1,063. The state’s confirmed and probable virus cases increased by 1,112 to 157,359.

The number of people who died from COVID-19 increased by 32 to 2,502. The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested and people can carry the virus but not feel sick.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the rise in hospitalizations will continue to strain the health care system and warned Arkansas will likely see a further surge in cases in the coming weeks. Hutchinson, a Republican, earlier this month ordered bars and restaurants serving alcohol to close by 11 p.m. but has resisted further restrictions on businesses.

“Based upon national trends and expert concerns on the holiday season, it does seem that we are in the lull before the storm,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “I expect the antigen testing to pick up again later in the week and that is where many of the positive cases are identified.”

About 27% of the state’s 9,144 hospital beds and 6% — or 70 — of the state’s 1,139 intensive care unit beds are available, according to the Department of Health. There are 405 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.