The group consists of nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists.
A 20-person medical military team from the U.S. Department of Defense is being sent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to assist with staffing needs. The crew is expected to arrive tomorrow for a 30-day tour, which could be extended.
The team consists of 14 nurses, four physicians and two respiratory therapists and their services will be provided at no cost to the state. During his weekly press conference this afternoon, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said their help “is welcome assistance.”
“That is a lot of medical capability that will be blended in with the existing staff that will create greater capacity,” he said.
Efforts are underway to bring 27 ICU beds online in Arkansas during September. As of 10 a.m. today, there were 23 ICU beds available statewide for both COVID and non-COVID patients. There were also only two pediatric ICU beds available.
“That’s closer than we like, but it is better than what it has been and so we continue to monitor that,” Hutchinson said.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by 19 today to 1,209. About 91.5 percent of hospitalized patients are vaccinated. More than 49 percent of eligible Arkansans are fully vaccinated while 12.6 percent are partially vaccinated.
Health officials continue to stress the importance of vaccination in fighting this surge in cases. For those who do contract COVID-19, Health Secretary Dr. José Romero stressed the importance of seeking treatment with monoclonal antibodies.
“Monoclonal antibodies have been shown to decrease hospitalization by 70 to 85 percent if started early and given appropriately,” Romero said. “That is what patients should be asking for, not ivermectin, not any other compound.”
In addition to health, the pandemic has also impacted Arkansans financially leaving some unable to pay their rent. Financial assistance is available through initiatives like the Arkansas Rent Relief Program which has distributed $9.8 million out of $173 million in available funding.
The program has been criticized for distributing funds too slowly, so today Hutchinson announced two changes to simplify the documentation process and speed things up. First, applications from Arkansans who have received eviction notices will be prioritized. Roughly 2,800 applicants currently fit this criteria and of those, more than 1,300 will be paid by next week.
The second change to the program will allow funds to be paid to eligible tenants even if the landlord does not submit the required information. This policy update will impact about 6,000 applicants.
Additionally, staffing levels for the program are being increased. A contractor assisting with managing the Arkansas Rent Relief Program has added 70 additional staff, which brings the personnel total to 160.
Benton, Pulaski and Washington counties have their own rental assistance programs and residents should apply to their specific counties, not to the statewide program. These are the state’s three most populous counties and account for about a third of Arkansas’ population. Should their funding run out, they may be able to access additional state funding.
“We have been in regular communication with those counties and to the extent they have additional funding needs, we’re ready and willing to work with those counties to begin accepting applications, provide funding so that we ensure that those needs are met,” said Department of Human Services representative Mark White.
More information about the Arkansas Rent Relief Program is available on the Department of Human Services website.