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UAMS reopens three COVID-19 units as hospitalizations rise

The spike in virus patients at UAMS is concerning enough that the hospital has had to reopen three dedicated COVID-19 treatment units.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For UAMS CEO Dr. Steppe Mette, the beginning of the summer was supposed to feel like a breath of fresh air.

"We thought at this point during the summer months, we would be seeing such a low level of COVID that people could relax, and we're seeing the opposite," Dr. Mette said. "It's pretty hard to understand why we are still in this place at this point."

But things have changed. COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across the Natural State.

The spike in COVID patients that UAMS is seeing is so big that they've had to reopen three dedicated COVID-19 treatment units. They were initially shut down at the beginning of the summer.

"Since June, we have started to gear up again," Dr. Mette said. "Now we have reestablished each one of the previous COVID units that we had."

THV11 was not allowed access into those COVID units Thursday because they're full. UAMS leaders said this was to keep us safe.

"Now we've established yet another critical care unit or ICU intensive care unit," Dr. Mette said. "That's new from what we did last spring."

What hasn't changed from last spring is the number of people admitted who aren't vaccinated. Last spring no one had the vaccine, and there isn't a big difference from what UAMS was seeing then.

"85 to 90% of those patients with COVID admitted to UAMS have not been vaccinated or not fully vaccinated," Dr. Mette said.

It's a cycle they were hoping Arkansas would have broken by now – leaving those working face to face with these patients more exhausted than ever.

It's also leaving patients discharged upset they ever had to go.

"I think regret really is a pretty common theme amongst the patients who have not been vaccinated," Dr. Mette said.

Dr. Mette says there's a lot of feeling and emotions his team is working through as the units – frustration, disbelief, anger.

But he says they're also experiencing pride. This is a situation they've been in before, and one they eventually know will come to an end.

"We know that there is the end of the tunnel. We don't see the light yet, we know it's there," Dr. Mette said. "We've been through this already, we're confident that we'll get through it, we just don't know when that's going to be."