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story.lead_photo.caption Nurses Mandy Stuckey (left) and Tonya Green conduct a coronavirus screening in April at a drive-thru site at New Life Church in North Little Rock. The site, and one at Ouachita Baptist Universityin Arkadelphia, is a partnership between two Arkansas companies. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the state passed the 900 mark for the first time on Wednesday, less than two weeks after topping 700 for the first time, and eight days after topping 800, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health.

The number of covid-19 hospitalizations rose by six to 901 on Wednesday, according to Health Department data.

There were 143 virus patients in Arkansas on ventilators on Wednesday. That is also a new record for the state, and it comes at a time when the number of available ventilators in the state — 615 currently — continues to shrink.

"Our hospitalizations again reached an all-time high today," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday on Twitter. "This puts a strain on our medical teams and it’s never been more important for all of us to do our part and be part of the solution. Thanks to everyone for making common sense and necessary adjustments for Thanksgiving."

Another 1,715 new cases were added Wednesday, raising the cumulative reported total since the pandemic began to 137,617. Of those, 118,751 Arkansans are considered recovered.

Deaths from the virus rose by 30 to 2,275. It is only the third day since the pandemic began in which the total number of recorded deaths was 30 or higher.

There are 16,577 active covid-19 cases in the state, an increase of one from the day before.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of physicians in the state delivered a letter to Hutchinson asking the governor to implement and enforce stricter covid-19 interventions.

The letter was signed "The Physicians of Arkansas" and was followed by several pages of names and timestamps, as well as each doctor's field of medicine and date of signature.

Specifically, the doctors asked that the governor enforce a universal mask mandate, close bars and gyms, limit restaurant service to take-out only and restrict all indoor gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

Hutchinson responded with a letter to the physicians, provided to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Wednesday afternoon, expressing gratitude for their "selfless service, invaluable leadership, and adaptability" demonstrated in the face of the pandemic.

The governor thanked the doctors for the suggestions and followed with four paragraphs of restrictions and remedies already in place.

"Please be assured I share your commitment to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas, and I recognize the importance of maintaining our hospital capacity," Hutchinson wrote in the letter. "I will continue to be guided by the expertise and experience of public health officials and evaluate appropriate actions to mitigate the impact on our hospital capacity. Thank you again for your letter and for your dedication to the health and safety of all Arkansans."

Read Thursday's Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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