LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Nearly 300 doctors from around Arkansas are urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to impose new restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases.
A letter from the doctors was delivered to Gov. Hutchinson Wednesday (Nov. 18) as the state's COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new record level.
In the letter, they warned of the strain on the state's health care system.
The doctors called on Gov. Hutchinson to close bars and gyms, and to limit restaurants to takeout service only.
They also called on him to limit indoor gatherings to less than ten people.
Arkansas' probable and confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 1,715 on Wednesday.
5NEWS spoke with Dr. Anne-Marie Magre who signed the letter. She says she's in agreement and the hospital bed situation is getting out of hand.
“We have to hunker down like we did in March when there weren’t that many cases, that’s the irony of it all is that our cases our higher now, our deaths are higher now...42 deaths in a day? If that doesn’t grab your attention, especially in a state with less than 3 million people? And we haven’t even touched flu season yet, I mean, a lot of people get hospitalized due to pneumonia, where are we going to put those people?” Dr. Magre said.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the state has over 1,000 ICU hospital beds but there are only 83 beds left for patients. In this letter, doctors said their system will be “greatly compromised” if the spike is not reversed.
The letter states:
"Dear Governor Hutchinson: We are physicians practicing in Arkansas who have significant concerns as we watch the rising tide of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas. We are all voicing our opinions as individual citizens, and this statement in no way represents the institution where we are employed and practice medicine.
We are seeing ICUs full of COVID-19 patients. Our hospitals are filling up to the brim, and the virus is continuing to spread unchecked in our communities, meaning that the worst is approaching. Soon we will shoot past our capacity to care for patients. We will need field hospitals, the children’s hospitals will need to take adult patients, and our ability to care for patients with routine emergencies such as trauma patients, heart attacks, and strokes will be greatly compromised. Healthcare providers will become overwhelmed and burn out, as many have already. We will see COVID-19 take the lives of many Arkansans, both directly and indirectly.
To prevent these mass casualties, as scientists and physicians we implore you to use your powers as governor to implement and enforce these interventions that have been scientifically shown to stop the spread of COVID-19:
1) Enforce a universal mask mandate.
2) All bars and gyms should be closed. Restaurant service should be limited to takeout only.
3) All indoor gatherings should be restricted to less than 10 people.
Finally, you have a Department of Health full of some of the most excellent minds in Arkansas who have been consistently offering you sound advice. We ask that you listen to these experts, follow their recommendations, and enforce their directives.
Governor, we are at a crucial point in this pandemic. Arkansas needs strong leadership now more than ever. We, the physicians of Arkansas, implore you to take the necessary steps to save lives, even if they are unpopular steps to take. Countless lives depend upon it.
Sincerely, The physicians of Arkansas"