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Arkansas down to 8 ICU beds as Covid rips through the state

"Vaccinations reduce hospitalizations," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.
A nurse checks on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Ark., on Aug. 4, 2021.
A nurse checks on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Ark., on Aug. 4, 2021.Houston Cofield / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas saw the single biggest one-day increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, leaving a mere eight intensive care unit beds open in the entire state, authorities said Monday.

With 1,376 people hospitalized for the virus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson begged his constituents to get vaccinations.

"Today’s report shows some very startling numbers," Hutchinson said in a statement.

"We saw the largest single-day increase in hospitalizations and have eclipsed our previous high of Covid hospitalizations. There are currently only eight ICU beds available in the state. Vaccinations reduce hospitalizations."

Jeff Tabor, program director for Arkansas's COVIDComm system, which matches Covid-19 patients with hospitals, theorized that the ICU crunch is due to both the virus's recent spread and patients who put off other medical procedures during the pandemic.

"I fear that we're at a moment moment where any (patient with) time-sensitive disease will be affected," Tabor told NBC News on Tuesday. "(Patients who need treatment for) Covid, trauma, stroke, heart attack, sepsis, anyone critically ill with diabetes, so much more will be impacted by the lack of resources."

A little more than 1.1 million people in Arkansas are fully vaccinated, or about 37.6 percent of the population, according to a rolling count by NBC News on Monday.

That is lower than neighboring states such as Texas (44.5 percent), Oklahoma (40.8), Missouri (42.1) and Tennessee (39.6).

Hutchinson in April signed into law a ban on mask requirements by governmental entities. The governor last week said he regretted that.

“In hindsight, I wish that it had not become law,” he told reporters at a press conference.

A judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban on mask mandates after lawmakers left the prohibition in place despite a rising number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

There have been 405,727 confirmed cases in the state with a 58 percent rate of increase over the past 14 days, according to NBC News' tally. The virus has killed 6,322 in the state during the pandemic, the data shows.