Arkansas Nearly Out of ICU Beds as Delta Variant Fuels Pandemic

NEW YORK (Reuters) -
A person holds up a sign during an anti-mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine protest held outside New York City Hall in Manhattan, New York City, Monday. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

Only eight intensive care unit beds were available on Monday in the State of Arkansas, its governor said, as the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus pushed cases and hospitalizations in the United States to a six-month high.

In neighboring Texas, Governor Greg Abbott asked hospitals to postpone elective surgeries as the variant raged through swaths of the country, including many Southern states grappling with low vaccination rates.

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases have averaged 100,000 for three days in a row, up 35% over the past week, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas reported the most new cases in the past week, based on population.

Hospitalizations rose 40% and deaths, a lagging indicator, registered an 18% rise nationwide in the past week.

“We saw the largest single-day increase in hospitalizations and have eclipsed our previous high of COVID hospitalizations,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said on Twitter. “There are currently only eight ICU beds available in the state.”

The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is rising across the country, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain.

With the virus once again upending Americans’ lives after a brief summer lull, the push to vaccinate those still reluctant has gained fresh momentum.

The Pentagon on Monday said that it will seek Biden’s approval by the middle of September to require military members to get vaccinated.