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Panel Approves $50M Emergency Request for More Beds at Arkansas Hospitals

An Arkansas panel on Monday approved an emergency request to allocate $50.1 million in federal funds to temporarily increase bed capacity at hospitals across the state.

The funds from the American Rescue Plan Act will add 265 beds at 11 hospitals under pressure from a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant.

The request came from the Arkansas Department of Health, which warned that hospitalizations have increased more than 120% over the past four weeks and demand for care has skyrocketed. 

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero on Monday told a state committee responsible for allocating the funds that said the majority of those hospitalized have not been vaccinated and have not received a booster shot. He said that overall, cases are mild, but the high volume of cases from the highly transmissible variant means the number of severe cases will rise proportionally.

Romero said the surge is expected to peak sometime this month but that Arkansas’ low vaccination rate, about 52%, is a “disadvantage” for the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday announced that the state had acquired 211,000 at-home COVID test kits that will be available free to residents. The tests will be available at public libraries, public health units and other locations. The National Guard has been directed to help deliver the tests.

Read the full article from Arkansas Business here.