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Arkansas hospitals prepare for surge of new COVID-19 cases

As the Delta variant spreads through Arkansas, local hospitals are preparing for the third wave of patients.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Arkansas hospitals are getting ready for an increase in patients following a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in the state.  

Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith currently has four times the COVID patients they had in late Spring. 

Dr. Paul Bean, chief of medical affairs at Mercy, says the hospital is taking in COVID-19 patients that needed to be transported from overcrowded hospitals in Missouri.  

"Over 95 percent of the patients admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. We are making preparations for another spike again," says Dr. Bean. 

Today (July 1st), there are 36 patients in the hospital due to COVID-19 in Northwest Arkansas. Dr. Marti Sharky with the Fayetteville Health Board says there were only 19 COVID-19 patients in the hospital in February 2021.

“Hospitals in our area are already full with COVID from our area, then taking overflow COVID from southern Missouri, and then non-COVID patients, so they are already fairly full. Preparing for that increase is going to put a strain on them like they were this past winter," says Dr. Sharky. 

The more contagious Delta variant of the virus is becoming more dominant in Arkansas. Dr. Sharky says patients who come into the hospital are sicker, and she is seeing more patients needing treatment that goes beyond a ventilator. 

“We are seeing people that just intubating is not going to just save their life; we are having to put them on a heart/lung transplant machine. Meaning we not only have to breathe for them, but we have to pump their blood for them. We can put them on those machines easily, but taking them off is really hard,” says Sharky. 

Sharky says getting the vaccine will prevent people from contracting COVID-19 and prevent them from going to the hospital.  

“With the original strain, every person that was infected we expected them to infect 2.5 other persons. With the Delta variant, it’s 5.8. other persons” says Dr. Sharky.

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