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UAMS reopens COVID-19 unit after being shut down for three months

"We have seen a 300% increase in the numbers of patients hospitalized here, so a threefold increase over the last three to four weeks," UAMS's CEO said.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — A stark reminder that COVID-19 is nowhere near over in our state. 

After being shut down for three months, UAMS officially reopened its designated COVID-19 unit.

Dr. Steppe Mette, UAMS Chief Executive Officer, said it was the safe and efficient thing to do with both Delta Variants and hospitalizations on the rise.

"It was an easy decision to make but it was distressing to make, because we don't want to see this happening," he said.

Mette described it as a bit frustrating.

"It is a hit to institutional morale to see those numbers increase again," he said.

As CEO of UAMS, Mette and his team decided this week to reopen the hospital's designated COVID-19 unit after their number of patients skyrocketed.

"We have seen a 300% increase in the number of patients hospitalized here. So a threefold increase over the last three to four weeks," Mette said.

Currently, the hospital has 24 COVID-19 patients with 11 in the ICU and three on ventilators.

Mette said there's a common trend with these patients: they're younger and sicker.

"We used to have a quarter of our hospitalized patients in the ICU, now it's 50 to 70%," he said.

According to Mette, the common problem behind the high numbers is the low vaccination rate in the state.

"The stressful thing for us and what we're seeing not only in Arkansas but around the country, but those who chose to not be vaccinated up to this point tend to be younger," he said.

While this isn't the direction Mette believes the state should be moving, he hopes this can be a wake-up call for many.

"I can't underscore enough if you're still hesitant or have not yet gotten vaccinated, please consider doing so," he said.

Mette said once they see three to four weeks of sustained COVID-19 admissions under 10, that's when they'll shut down the unit again.

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