LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in Arkansas climbed again Tuesday, as the state's top health official said he was worried about a further surge in cases from the coming Labor Day weekend.
The Department of Health said the number of coronavirus patients on ventilators rose by 27 to 388, the second day in a row the state has reached a new high. The state reported 2,626 new cases and 22 more deaths.
The state's COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by 45 to 1,212. There are 531 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units around the state. Only 19 ICU beds are available, the department said, though it's unclear how many are equipped for COVID-19 patients. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state's hospitals will be adding 64 ICU beds in September.
Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
State Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said he expected hospitalizations -- which have surpassed what Arkansas saw during the winter surge -- to rise further in the coming weeks.
"Every holiday weekend we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic we've seen a surge in the number of cases, so we are concerned," Romero said.
Romero and Hutchinson also said they were concerned about a spike in cases among children and urged parents of children 12 to 18 years old to get them vaccinated. Hutchinson said 30% of the state's active virus cases are 18 years old and younger.
The state reported more than 13,000 additional doses of the vaccine were given since Monday.
Attorneys for the state's Republican legislative leaders on Tuesday also asked the state Supreme Court to stay a judge's ruling blocking Arkansas' ban on mask mandates. A Pulaski County judge issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which bans mask requirements by schools and other government entities.
The filing argued that allowing mask mandates interfered with efforts to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
"Mandates exacerbate distrust in the vaccines and in government efforts to encourage vaccinations among the people that are the target of the State's COVID-19 public health policy -- the remaining unvaccinated Arkansans," the filing by the attorneys for House Speaker Matthew Shepherd and Senate President Jimmy Hickey said.
The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday also approved extending its emergency declaration because of the coronavirus, which includes a requirement to wear masks on city property, through Dec. 29. The declaration will be reviewed every 30 days by the board.