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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

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 Wednesday on the Arkansas Department of Health website:

• 198,254 cumulative confirmed cases, up 2,324 from Tuesday.

• 1,901 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, up 0.57 from Tuesday.

• 2,117,692 PCR test reports, up 13,369 from Tuesday.

• 9.4% cumulative PCR infection rate, up from 9.3% Tuesday.

• 44,339 cumulative probable cases, up 1,381 from Tuesday.

• 19.5% cumulative antigen infection rate, no change from Tuesday.

• 25,092 active confirmed and probable cases, up 684 from Tuesday.

• 213,574 recoveries of confirmed and probable cases, up 2,957 from Tuesday.

• 1,321 hospitalizations, down two from Tuesday.

• 217 cases on a ventilator, down seven from Tuesday.

• 427 ICU admissions, up one from Tuesday.

• 3,252 confirmed deaths, up 47 from Tuesday.

• 649 probable deaths, up 18 from Tuesday.

• 1,591 nursing home deaths, up 20 from Tuesday.

• 5,445 cumulative confirmed cases, up 111 from Tuesday.

• 68 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, up 0.43 from Tuesday.

• 69,274 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, up 415 from Tuesday.

• 49,450 private lab reports, up 364 from Tuesday.

• 19,824 public lab reports, up 51 from Tuesday.

• 8.6% cumulative PCR infection rate, up from 8.5% Tuesday.

• 633 active confirmed cases in Garland County, up 24 from Tuesday.

• 4,673 recoveries of confirmed cases in Garland County, up 86 from Tuesday.

• 940 cumulative probable cases in Garland County, up 41 from Tuesday.

• 219 active probable cases in Garland County, up 29 from Tuesday.

• 139 confirmed deaths, up one from Tuesday.

24 probable deaths, no change from Tuesday.

A pharmacist involved in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Garland County told the task force organizing the local response to the pandemic that he's been overwhelmed with phone calls about vaccine availability.

Cody Turner of Village Healthmart East Gate Pharmacy told the task force Monday that rather than calling pharmacies to inquire about the vaccine, people should complete waiting list forms. According to a news release from the city of Hot Springs, the forms can be filled out online at https://www.villagehealthmart.com/covid-vaccine-wait-list.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that it will take until the end of March to vaccinate the two highest priority groups. In April, vaccinations for the third category should begin, he said. Phase 1-C includes people 65-69, those 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and workers in transportation, logistics, water and wastewater utilities, food service, finance, information technology and communications, energy, media, public safety and public health workers.

He said about 40,000 of the 180,000 people in Phase 1-A have received the initial dose of vaccine. That phase is expected to be completed by the end of the month. Phase 1-B, which includes people 70 and older, teachers, workers in food and agriculture, manufacturing, grocery stores, transit, child care, postal service and essential government personnel, is expected to begin next month.

Phase 1-A, which started last month, includes health care workers, nursing home residents and staff and first responders.

City Manager Bill Burrough warned of difficult times ahead, noting that the more than 200 confirmed and probable cases reported Tuesday in Garland County ranked fifth statewide.

"Over the next three or four weeks we're really going to see some things that are going to be scary in terms of how we're fighting this pandemic," he said during his report to the Hot Springs Board of Directors Tuesday night. "Our hospitals are strained throughout the state. It's extremely important we continue to fight this pandemic every way we can."

Burrough said John Hardin, the manager of the city's recycling center, died from complications from the virus. He had worked for the city since 2008, Burrough said.

"It's really hit our city family hard," he said. "John was such a very kind gentleman. He absolutely loved his job. I don't think anyone knew a baler better than he did when it comes to dismantling those and putting them back together. We're going to miss John very much. It really brings home to us just how fragile we are in comparison to this pandemic. We want John's family to know our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight."

The county's rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases peaked for the third-straight day Wednesday, with the 111 confirmed cases reported replacing the 108 reported the previous Wednesday in the moving average. Active confirmed cases peaked for a second-straight day.

Dr. Gene Shelby, the county's health officer, told the task force this week's surge is likely a product of Christmas holiday gatherings and travel. The wave proceeding from the New Year's holiday has yet to hit, he said.

The state's moving average peaked for the third time in four days Wednesday. Hospitalizations fell from Tuesday's peak but active confirmed and probable cases peaked for the second-straight day.

"We continue to see high numbers of new cases across the state," Hutchinson said in a news release. "Be mindful of being a safe distance and protecting each other. It has been a tough day with the loss of another 65 of our friends and neighbors to COVID-19. Vaccine doses continue to be distributed across the state to those in Category 1-A, and we are also receiving additional doses each week."

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