The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health COVID-19 Research Team decided in May, due to a changing COVID-19 pattern, to transition to a new format for the College’s COVID-19 Report. Rather than solely focusing on COVID, the new Public Health Brief will focus on an important public health issue in Arkansas. The College will, from time-to-time, write a Brief specific to COVID in addition to an update included with the Public Health Brief.
With respect to content, COVID case and death data will not be included in the Brief for the foreseeable future. COVID home-testing has become widespread, and case data, as reported by state health departments, no longer accurately reflect true community spread and resulting forecasts are extremely biased. Deaths due to COVID continue. However, since December/January, the number of COVID deaths in the state have dropped considerably. While this is very good news from a health care and public health perspective, small numbers make forecasting models highly unstable and resulting forecasts unreliable.
Given these circumstances, this Public Health Brief will focus solely on Arkansas COVID hospitalizations data. Hospitalization data are extremely valid, as events are discreet and counts highly reliable. Low numbers make modeling difficult and subject to unknown bias. Nevertheless, there are sufficient hospitalization data to allow an assessment of COVID trends in Arkansas.
Data included in this Brief are from the Arkansas Department of Health through July 31, 2022.
• There was an observable increase in cumulative COVID-19 hospitalizations from 37,500 on April 1, 2022 to 39,292 on July 31, 2022.
• Hospitalization data suggest a mini COVID-19 surge in the state. The current surge may have peaked around July 15.
• It is difficult to know whether the recent downward trend in Arkansas hospitalizations will continue, or are just a temporary lull. The trend will be more apparent by Aug. 15.
COVID hospitalizations in Arkansas steadily increased after May 4. A clear trend was apparent in the data. Arkansas was experiencing a mini COVID surge. However, around July 15, the pattern changed, suggesting a decline in COVID hospitalizations, as shown in Figure 1. The reader should keep in mind that hospitalizations lag about two weeks behind cases being reported. However, there is wide variability in when any one hospital reports their hospitalizations as the numbers decline and the resources devoted to reporting decline as well.