Arkansas data shows “long-COVID” effects may be bigger concern than transmission

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - For over three months, Arkansas’ active COVID-19 cases continued to be on a steady decline, and hospitalizations have seen slight periodic increases, according to the state Department of Health (ADOH).

Monday, the ADOH reported it is seeing less than 300 new cases weekly statewide, compared to 8,000-plus new cases reported weekly in January of this year.

While active cases have steadily declined, hospitalizations have increased; health officials have attributed this to “long-COVID” and patients with pre-existing health conditions who contract the virus.

“Inpatients may initially do fine in the course of illness and then as the course of illness progresses on they may have difficulty with COVID directly or other indirect effects of COVID, so then we see those as hospitalizations,” said Sammie Cribbs, President, and CEO of North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. “Transmission hasn’t seen significant change, and hospitalizations have stayed low. We have less than five admitted today, and fortunately, none of those are on a ventilator. Happy to see the severity of illnesses are down a little bit but still seeing some effects of illness.”

While a typical active case may last five to seven days, those who see post-COVID-19 effects may take longer to overcome illness leading to hospitalization.

Cribbs says transmission rates have been optimistically low for several months. NARMC is focused on providing quality care for all patients, sure to remain ready to treat those more severe cases.

“Going forward, our main focus is patient health and community outcomes,” said Cribbs. “We have to make sure the resources are available to treat COVID in the acute phase and also any lasting effects, so they can be healthy and out in the community.”

An example of a long-term hospitalization is Freddie Don Flud, a Harrison resident who has continued to recover from COVID-19 for nearly two years.

“You hurt. Every bone and joint hurt badly. That cough was unbearable,” said Flud. “You don’t ever forget that cough. That was the worst thing (is it) felt like your ribs were going to break.”

Flud is a Type-2 Diabetic who contracted COVID-19 in 2020; his battle included 71 days in the hospital, 37 of which were spent on a ventilator.

During his time in the hospital, Flud says he had several near-death experiences that strengthened his faith and helped continue his battle back to health. He is now at home recovering for several months and was recently taken off oxygen during the day.

“I want to thank everybody for all their prayers that they prayed and all the things they did. We’ve been blessed in the middle of our struggle,” he said.

Flud has recently been able to function normally: starting to attend events and go on horseback rides.

Transmission rates in Boone County have declined. The county health department says five new cases were reported last week. With new Center for Disease Control guidelines, NARMC says it may revisit masking policies if transmission rates continue to fall.

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