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story.lead_photo.caption This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). - Image by CDC via The Associated Press

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As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a press briefing Friday from the state Capitol. The following stats were posted Friday on the Arkansas Department of Health website:

• 125,783 cumulative confirmed cases, up 1,618 from Thursday.

• 1,285.14 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, up 8.43 from Thursday.

• 1,565,873 PCR test reports, up 13,423 from Thursday.

• 8.0% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Thursday.

• 16,133 cumulative probable cases, up 443 from Thursday.

• 16.9% cumulative antigen infection rate, down from 17.2% Thursday.

• 17,360 active confirmed and probable cases, up 372 from Thursday.

• 122,219 recoveries of confirmed and probable cases, up 1,674 from Thursday.

• 935 hospitalizations, up 36 from Thursday.

• 152 cases on a ventilator, up six from Thursday.

• 2,125 confirmed deaths, up 20 from Thursday.

• 196 probable deaths, up four from Thursday.

• 967 nursing home deaths, up 13 from Thursday.

• 3,188 cumulative confirmed cases in Garland County, up 61 from Thursday.

• 31.42 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, down six from Thursday.

• 50,288 PCR and antigen test reports, up 317 from Thursday.

• 35,491 private lab reports, up 252 from Thursday.

• 14,797 public lab reports, up 65 from Thursday.

• 6.6% cumulative PCR infection rate, up from 6.5% Thursday.

• 384 active confirmed cases in Garland County, up 23 from Thursday.

• 2,710 recoveries of confirmed cases in Garland County, up 38 from Thursday.

• 228 cumulative probable cases in Garland County, up five from Thursday.

• 56 active probable cases in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

• 94 confirmed deaths, no change from Thursday.

• Five probable deaths, no change from Thursday.

The state's infection curve rose for the 16th time in 17 days Friday and reached a new peak for the 14th time in 15 days, but the state said help is on the way.

Dr. Jose Romero, Health Department secretary, said Pfizer has filed paperwork with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine, which the pharmaceutical giant said is 95% effective.

"It will take about three weeks for the FDA to make an adjudication of the efficacy and safety of their vaccine," he said. "Those vaccines will be available next month to a select group of individuals, high-risk individuals, which is being determined at this time by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's) advisory committee on immunizations and practices and also taking into account the National Academies of Medicine and Engineering recommendations."

In the interim, the governor's Winter Taskforce urged the public to heed warnings about large Thanksgiving gatherings. Washington Regional Medical System President and CEO Larry Shackelford, a member of the task force, said the state needs to avoid the surge in hospitalizations it saw after the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Hospitalizations had a net increase of 36 Friday, setting a new peak after the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals fell Thursday for the first time in five days.

"Two weeks after those events we see more patients needing inpatient care," he said. "We do have capacity to not only take care of COVID patients but other patients, but it's important we act now. If we see two weeks from today those kind of increases, we're going to be at the point where it will be challenging to meet those needs."

Hutchinson said the state's nursing licensing board will expedite the licensure of the more than 1,000 students that will graduate from Arkansas nursing schools in the coming weeks.

"The nursing licensing board will expedite the licensure of those students and will provide a 24-hour turnaround for licensure," Hutchinson said. "I'll also ask the board to waive the application fee of $100 to $125.

"We need to get those nurses on board quickly. We need them to help relieve some of the challenges we face. The fact that we will expedite that will make it easier for those nurses to go to work at a time that their talents, their heart, is critically needed."

Taskforce member Dr. Cam Patterson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences chancellor, said new quarantine guidelines will allow health care workers who've been exposed to a positive case to return to work sooner. Instead of the 14-day quarantine period, they can return to work after a negative test taken five to seven days after exposure.

Those who've been infected can return to work if they have no symptoms and are segregated from noninfected workers and only treat coronavirus patients.

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