Preparing for a possible spike in Covid-19 cases following Christmas and potential need for more hospital bed space, two existing facilities on Baptist Health campuses will be converted to provide 124 additional hospital beds to accommodate Covid-19 patients, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday at his weekly Covid-19 update.

“This is important because even though this is going to take some time to build this out we have to be ready for whatever comes in January,” Hutchinson said. “It is my hope, that we will build this out and we will not have to utilize those beds for Covid patients. But it is prudent upon me as governor to make sure we have that adequate space if the need arises.”

One care site will be located at the J.A. Gilbreath Conference Center at the Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock while the other will be located on the Baptist Health campus in Van Buren, according to Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells who serves  on the Governor’s Covid-19 Winter Task Force.

In Little Rock, the Gilbreath Conference Center will be converted for use as a covid care site with 50 beds and take take four to five weeks to complete. The Van Buren site will have 74 beds, including eight ICU beds, and take six to eight weeks to complete. Though the Van Buren project will take a little longer, it will be phased in such as way that some units can be available for use sooner than others if beds are needed, according to Wells.

“This build-out will cost $7.4 million,” Hutchinson said. “We hope FEMA will cover 80 percent of that.”

The per capita hospitalization rate and the rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 patients strongly suggest an increasing pressure on regional and county hospitals due to COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in larger urban areas, including UAMS, should expect not just pressure from COVID-19 cases originating in the cities where they are located, but also from transfers, as
regional and county hospitals are unable to meet the demand or provide care for patients with severe COVID-19 disease.


Arkansas this week received 18,575 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and began receiving shipments of the newly approved Moderna coronavirus vaccine. Next week, the state will receive 23,400 new doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. The new doses will be in addition to what will be shipped for those who have already received the first dose. The state will also receive 117,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine for residents in long-term care facilities. The vaccine is not expected to be widely available to the general public until late spring, according to Hutchinson.

UAMS Covid-19 Projections

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences this week updated its Covid-19 forecast, predicting the pandemic will peak in April 2021.


According to the report, six counties in Arkansas had a growth rate of more than 100 percent over the last two weeks. Four of those counties are in Southeast Arkansas: Desha with a growth rate of 221 percent; Lincoln with a growth rate of 149 percent; Drew with a growth rate of 139 percent; and Bradley with a growth rate of 125 percent.

You can read the full report HERE.

Covid-19 Cases in Southeast Arkansas

Ashley County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,167
Confirmed Cases: 1,009
Probable Cases: 158

Total Active Cases: 128
Active Confirmed Cases: 103
Active Probable Cases: 25

Total Recovered Cases: 1,020
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 888
Recovered Probable Cases: 132

Total Deaths: 19
Confirmed Deaths: 18
Probable Deaths: 1

Bradley County

Total Cumulative Cases: 834
Confirmed Cases: 667
Probable Cases: 167

Total Active Cases: 169
Active Confirmed Cases: 108
Active Probable Cases: 61

Total Recovered Cases: 656
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 551
Recovered Probable Cases: 105

Total Deaths: 9
Confirmed Deaths: 8
Probable Deaths: 1

Cleveland County

Total Cumulative Cases: 520
Confirmed Cases: 368
Probable Cases: 152

Total Active Cases: 54
Active Confirmed Cases: 28
Active Probable Cases: 26

Total Recovered Cases: 450
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 326
Recovered Probable Cases: 124

Total Deaths: 16
Confirmed Deaths: 14
Probable Deaths: 2

Chicot County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,360
Confirmed Cases: 1,275
Probable Cases: 85

Total Active Cases: 62
Active Confirmed Cases: 49
Active Probable Cases: 13

Total Recovered Cases: 1,269
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,198
Recovered Probable Cases: 71

Total Deaths: 29
Confirmed Deaths: 28
Probable Deaths: 1

Desha County

Total Cumulative Cases: 862
Confirmed Cases: 742
Probable Cases: 120

Total Active Cases: 148
Active Confirmed Cases: 124
Active Probable Cases: 24

Total Recovered Cases: 703
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 608
Recovered Probable Cases: 95

Total Deaths: 11
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 1

Drew County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,331
Confirmed Cases: 1,057
Probable Cases: 274

Total Active Cases: 200
Active Confirmed Cases: 160
Active Probable Cases: 40

Total Recovered Cases: 1,116
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 884
Recovered Probable Cases: 232

Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 13
Probable Deaths: 2

Lincoln County

Total Cumulative Cases: 2,749
Confirmed Cases: 2,562
Probable Cases: 187

Total Active Cases: 96
Active Confirmed Cases: 66
Active Probable Cases: 30

Total Recovered Cases: 2,631
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,477
Recovered Probable Cases: 154

Total Deaths: 21
Confirmed Deaths: 18
Probable Deaths: 3

Arkansas Department of Health