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UAMS chancellor says COVID-19 is 'at best, smoldering' in Arkansas

Though many feel the pandemic is lifting, top state health officials are raising concerns.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Chancellor of UAMS described COVID-19 as "smoldering" in Arkansas. 

Though many feel the pandemic is lifting, top state health officials are raising concerns. 

Dr. Cam Patterson has become known for his long Twitter threads breaking down major takeaways from the most recent UAMS COVID-19 model. 

Just as things started to feel like they were getting back to normal, the chancellor made it very clear that there are still several things that worry him and our state isn't out of the woods.

"There are several possible reasons why this may be the case, but it does indicate that COVID-19 is not waning," he said.

From low vaccination rates to ICU patients increasing, UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson believes Arkansas is moving in the wrong direction.

"COVID-19 may evolve over time to be even more of a deadly threat than it currently is and I think we need to continue to be vigilant," he said.

His biggest worry lies in the number of people not getting shots. 

According to Patterson, only 40% of eligible Arkansans are fully vaccinated and 9.6% are partially vaccinated.

Pair these numbers with the highly contagious Delta variant circling and his worry heightens. 

"There is one thing that all of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients have in common: none of them have been vaccinated," he said.

The number of those ICU patients has more than doubled statewide in the past months, and Patterson's hospital mirrors that, with a new population taking over the beds.

"This is skewing toward younger individuals and we're trying to understand why that is the case," he said.

While Patterson believes Arkansas isn't at the point where communities are getting meaningful benefits from the vaccines, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Department of Health believes it is contributing to some of the decreases we are seeing— but not fast enough.

"It's a race, and I think that the variant could win this race if we do not increase the proportion of people in the state who are fully vaccinated more quickly," she said.

Dillaha said that the Delta variant is circling rapidly right now in our state, which could create a potential fall surge.

"Every week we have more and more and the increase each week is greater and greater," she said.

Dr. Patterson and Dr. Dillaha both expressed concern about that potential fall surge.

They said the key will be increased vaccinations. Social distancing and wearing a mask have to remain the backup plan when you're around people you don't know.