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COVID-19 update: Infection curve continues steep descent

February 13, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
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

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

The following stats were posted Friday on the Arkansas Department of Health website:

• 247,028 cumulative confirmed cases, up 439 from Thursday.

• 682.43 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, down 121.86 from Thursday.

• 2,569,944 PCR test reports, up 6,669 from Thursday.

• 9.6% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Thursday.

• 657,200 vaccine doses received, up 36,125 from Thursday.

• 430,228 doses given, up 9,658 from Thursday.

• 64,580 cumulative probable cases, up 126 from Thursday.

• 18.7% cumulative antigen infection rate, down from 18.8% Thursday.

• 12,573 active confirmed and probable cases, down 945 from Thursday.

• 293,796 recoveries of confirmed and probable cases, up 1,498 from Thursday.

• 712 hospitalizations, no change from Thursday.

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

• 258 ICU admissions, up two from Thursday.

• 4,179 confirmed deaths, up 14 from Thursday.

• 1,033 probable deaths, down one from Thursday.

• 1,982 nursing home deaths, up one from Thursday.

• 7,810 cumulative confirmed cases in Garland County, up 17 from Thursday.

• 33 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, down 6.86 from Thursday.

• 92,262 PCR and antigen test reports, up 181 from Thursday.

• 68,455 private lab reports, up 174 from Thursday.

• 23,807 public lab reports, up seven from Thursday.

• 9.6% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Thursday.

• 401 active confirmed cases in Garland County, down 17 from Thursday.

• 7,228 recoveries of confirmed cases in Garland County, up 33 from Thursday.

• 1,404 cumulative probable cases in Garland County, up five from Thursday.

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

• 181 confirmed deaths, up one from Thursday.

• 39 probable deaths, no change from Thursday.

Garland County and the state's infection curves continued their steep descents Friday, falling 17% and 15% respectively. Friday's declines are part of a larger trend that began after the county and state's rolling seven-day averages of new polymerase chain reaction-confirmed cases peaked Jan. 11.

The county's average has fallen 70% from its peak, and the state's had dropped 68%. But the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health cautioned the monthlong descent may not be indicative of what's ahead. The predictive model the college updated earlier this week compared the pandemic to a hurricane, warning that the state may be in the eye of the storm.

It compared March to August as the build up, when the outer bands of a hurricane signal the coming storm surge. The leading edge of the storm hit in November, December and the first two weeks of January.

"Cases and hospitalizations are declining, and we are breathing a sigh of relief," Tuesday's updated model said. "With the beginning of the vaccination program in the state, we are even thinking about the end of the pandemic. But, like the eye of a hurricane, the lull will eventually pass and the full force of the storm will return.

"We cannot forecast when the next stage of the pandemic will begin, but we know it is coming and it may be even stronger than what we have so far experienced."

The college said it's likely the virus variant from the United Kingdom is circulating in the state.

"This variant is 50% to 70% more infectious than the original virus and will hospitalize and kill more people," the updated model said. "While we hope and expect the vaccines will have an impact on the epidemic, the full effect will not be apparent for three to four months. Indeed, in almost all counties in the state, we have fully vaccinated less than 1% of the population. As we have said before, we must remain vigilant."

The model noted the state's surveillance has declined since the start of the year. While new infections have fallen significantly in the last month, there hasn't been a corresponding drop in the cumulative infection rate. The county's cumulative PCR infection rate has risen 13% since the Jan. 11 peak in the infection curve.

The 6,600 PCR test reports added to the state's testing total Friday is about half of what's usually added on Fridays. The 181 PCR reports added to the county's total was also about half of what's typically added on Fridays.

"This suggests we may be missing a number of asymptomatic infections," the updated model said. "Despite declining cases, we should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Instead, we should be thinking of the pandemic as a hurricane."

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