The covid news for our state is not good -- not good at all! And as Labor Day celebrations take place, public schools are open and, of course, our colleges too, we will see spikes of infection within the next two weeks.
These words of caution come not from me, they come from Dr. Mark Williams, the director of the University of Arkansas School of Public Health.
Not into partisan politics, but simply stating the status of the health of Arkansans, Dr. Williams does not mince words on the delta variant and the ramping up of covid infection in our state.
Back in June, he warned, "Covid-19 is not over in Arkansas. It is, at best, smoldering."
Last week, Dr. Williams, again in a fact-based video message to all Arkansans said, "... Covid is no longer smoldering. It has broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and strength."
Stop and chew on that for a minute. It is not over; the "infections are no longer smoldering." But Arkansas is in "a full-fledged forest fire that is simply growing in size and strength."
And perhaps the most chilling statistic, from Dr. Williams, "...Arkansas will cross a new milestone. By Aug. 30, more than 7,000 Arkansans will have died of covid-19."
If his forecast holds true, covid-19 will have killed more Arkansans than all the wars in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Repeat that over in your mind, or say it out loud. Covid-19 infections have killed more Arkansans than World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Absolutely chilling statistics.
Key points, in his video presentation:
• The covid-19 positivity rate in the state remains over 20%, five times the national average. Although testing rates are low, this is evidence of wide community spread.
• The 15-day model is forecasting 4,523 new covid-19 cases on Sept. 14. This represents almost a doubling of new daily cases in the next month.
• The 30-day models continue to show Arkansans between ages 35 and 59 have the highest number of covid-19 diagnoses -- forecast to increase by 19,610 cases, an average of 1,040 cases per day.
• The highest relative growth in cases will be in children 17 and under. The state will see an additional 10,784 children with covid-19 by Aug. 30, an increase of 17% over the number reported on Aug. 15.
• Like cases, the 30-day model is forecasting 131 new hospitalizations in Arkansas on Sept. 14 due to covid-19. This represents an increase of a third in daily hospitalization in the next month.
• The greatest number of patients hospitalized will be adults 35 to 59, increasing by 10% over the number on Aug. 15.
• The greatest relative increase in hospitalizations will be in children 17 and under, increasing by 120 hospitalizations or 20%.
• The 30-day model is forecasting 38 new deaths due to covid-19 on Sept. 14. This represents just under a doubling of daily deaths over the number on Aug. 16.
• The 15-day model forecasts 7,017 cumulative covid-19 deaths by Aug. 30, adding an additional 457 deaths. We should expect an average of 30 additional deaths per day.
• All counties in Arkansas continue to show low covid-19 vaccination rates. The greatest increase in vaccinations in the state was 11% in Sebastian County. However, most counties increased vaccinations by 2% to 5%.
We should encourage all vaccine resisters to don a mask and get a shot. But will they?
And those who so proudly wave the nation's flag, remember that all-enlisted military personnel are to be given the shot -- no resisters there -- not if they expect to remain in the military.
The first weekend of high school football has occurred. No word just yet on when the forfeits will begin as some school districts have no or a limited mask rule for indoor classrooms.
Do you know someone who has had covid or has died? That old ruse to put off getting the vaccine, once used to cast doubt, is now, sadly, a reality.
Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.