Arkansas' upward trend in new coronavirus cases continued on Monday as the number of people hospitalized in the state with the virus jumped to its highest level in almost three months.
Rising for the third day in a row, the number hospitalized grew by 18, to 176, its highest level since March 19.
The state's count of cases rose by 332 -- almost double the size of the daily increase a week earlier.
For the second time in four days, however, the state didn't report any new deaths from covid-19.
The state's death toll, as tracked by the Arkansas Department of Health, remained at 11,526.
While smaller by 117 than the increase on Sunday, the rise in cases on Monday was larger by 159 than the one a week earlier.
Due to slowdowns in testing and reporting on weekends, the state's new case numbers tend to be smaller on Sundays and Mondays than on other days.
"As far as cases are concerned, this is in line with what I was anticipating," State Epidemiologist Mike Cima said Monday.
"I suspect that, the middle of this week, we'll have some pretty large numbers in terms of new cases. I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility to get up to 1,000 new cases [in a day] this week."
He said the upward trend, however, remained gradual compared with previous waves of infections.
"We're still not in that arena of exploding case numbers where over a one-week period, we're increasing by 200%," Cima said.
"That's not happening, but we are increasing at a noticeable clip."
He also noted that, while the total number hospitalized has been rising, the numbers of covid-19 patients in intensive care and on ventilators have remained near their lowest levels since the state's first case was identified in March 2020.
"Those severe outcomes, outside of just hospitalizations, they haven't really changed all that much," Cima said.
"They've gone up here and there, but overall they're kind of remaining steady."
He said that was likely due to the large number of people who have some immunity, gained from a past infection, vaccination or both, as well as treatments such as Pfizer's Paxlovid pill.
The number on ventilators, which didn't change on Sunday, rose Monday by two, to seven.
Dropping for the third straight day, the number who were in intensive care fell by one, to 20.
The average daily increase in the state's case count over a rolling seven-day period rose Monday to 631, its highest level since the week ending March 1.
Already at its highest level since Feb. 24, the number of cases in the state that were considered active rose by 96, to 6,946, as new cases continued to outpace recoveries.
At its hospitals in Little Rock and Springdale, Arkansas Children's had five covid-19 patients on Monday, down from seven on Friday.
St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro had 13 covid-19 patients, spokesman Mitchell Nail said.
He said the number had been hovering at about that level since it rose above 10 a week earlier for the first time in weeks.
None of the patients on Monday were in intensive care, he said.
"The hard part is that in the last three days, we've actually had two patients pass away from covid," Nail said.
"The ICU patients that we have had have been pretty sick."
CASES BY COUNTY
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 59, on Monday, followed by Washington County with 34 and Benton County with 32.
The state's cumulative count of cases since March 2020 rose to 850,535.
The Health Department's tally of vaccine doses that had been administered rose by 163, which was up by eight compared with the daily increase a week earlier.
About 63% of the most recent increase was from people receiving their first booster shots.
The count of people starting the vaccination process grew by 28, which was up by seven from the increase in first doses a week earlier.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67.2% of Arkansans had received at least one dose as of Monday, and 54.9% were fully vaccinated.
Of those who were fully vaccinated, 40.4% had received a booster dose.
Among the states and the District of Columbia, Arkansas ranked 37th in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one dose.
In the percentage who were fully vaccinated, it was roughly tied with Tennessee for 46th, ahead of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Wyoming.
Nationally, 78% of people had received at least one dose, and 66.8% were fully vaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated population nationally, 47.1% had received a booster dose.