LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — About a quarter of Arkansas’ hospital and intensive care beds are available as the state’s coronavirus cases and deaths keep rising, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday.

Hutchinson said about 71% of the state’s 8,917 hospital beds are currently filled, while more than 77% of 970 adult ICU beds are filled. The number of people hospitalized because of the virus in the state decreased overnight by seven to 237.

“I feel very comfortable that where we are right now is able to handle expected needs, at least in the short term," Dr. Nathaniel Smith, the state's health secretary, said. Smith said the state has the ability to expand its capacity for beds, and said he was encouraged that more than 65% of the state's ventilators remain available.

The department said at least 16,083 people in Arkansas have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 522 over Sunday. The number of active cases, which excludes people who have died or recovered, increased to 5,063.

The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The state’s deaths from the illness caused by the virus rose by two to 227, while the number of people hospitalized decreased by seven to 237.

Arkansas has seen a major upswing in cases since last month, when the state began allowing businesses that closed because of the virus to reopen. Active cases in the state have increased more than 200% since Memorial Day, while hospitalizations have more than doubled in that same period.

The number of beds filled hasn't changed much from a week ago, when 30% of the state's hospital beds and 21% of adult ICU beds were available, according to the Department of Health.

Hutchinson said the available hospital space is tighter in northwest Arkansas, which has driven the increase in cases in recent weeks. Benton and Washington counties in the state's northwest region were again among the three counties with the most new cases Monday.

The second highest number of new cases came from Hot Spring County, where 60 inmates at the Ouachita River Unit have tested positive for the virus. The Department of Corrections said all inmates at the facility were tested Saturday and testing of staff began Sunday.

Hutchinson also criticized China's decision to suspend imports from a Tyson facility in Springdale where hundreds of workers have tested positive for the virus. The Republican governor called the move “very troubling” since there’s been no evidence of the virus being transmitted from food, and questioned why the facility was singled out.

“I don’t know whether China is playing politics or just making bad judgments, but that’s not good or helpful at all in our relationship,” Hutchinson said.


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