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As COVID ICU Beds Fill, AR Health Pros Encourage Vaccinations

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Thursday, August 26, 2021   

BENTON, Ark. -- Gov. Asa Hutchinson said COVID ICU beds in Arkansas are full as the Delta variant continues to surge in the state.

Arkansas health officials are pleading with residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible to bring cases down. Currently, 46% of eligible Arkansans are fully vaccinated.

Michael Stewart, CEO of Saline Health System, said the latest wave of cases has been challenging, especially as ICU beds are scarce for COVID and non-COVID patients.

He emphasized right now it is important to talk respectfully to residents who are skeptical of the vaccine and provide research to help them come to a decision.

"Any strategy that we roll out has to kind of start with the heart, and say, 'Hey, I understand you have some concerns.' And saying, 'Your concerns are valid. Let's talk through those,' or 'Let's get resources or people in front of you that can help you with concerns,'" Stewart outlined. "I think that's a proven strategy to help move the needle."

Stewart noted he is also hopeful that the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine this week will push people previously hesitant to get their shot, now that it has been fully vetted.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' faculty released its monthly COVID-19 forecast Tuesday, which predicted more than 4,500 cases per day by mid-September, almost double from the month prior.

During the governor's coronavirus briefing, Hutchinson stressed the lack of ICU beds in the state shows how important it is for more residents to get vaccinated.

"Everybody should know that the strain this is on our hospitals, and the need to get our vaccinations, and how critical our bed space is," Hutchinson explained. "I know our hospitals are trying to bring some additional online, but that is a cautionary note for everyone."

Arkansas's COVID-19 positivity rate is more than 20%, which is five times the national average. Since February, more than 92% of hospitalizations in the state have been unvaccinated people.


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