Local COVID-19 unit doctor pleads with Arkansans to get vaccinated in new video

COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations are once again rising in NWA, and Washington Regional on Friday released a new video featuring a local doctor pleading with Arkansans who have not been vaccinated to go ahead and get their shot.

The video (embedded above) features Michael Bolding, a doctor in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit talking about his recent experiences working in the unit. Bolding said he is currently seeing younger, sicker patients in the unit as a result of the more contagious Delta Variant that is spreading in the state.

“I’ve seen a dramatic rise in 20 year olds and 30 year olds, unvaccinated patients…with no co-morbid conditions ending up on ventilators, bipap, high flow oxygen, and extremely sick, sicker than at any time during this pandemic,” Bolding said in the video. “I have had to call multiple fathers and mothers of preschoolers in their 20s and 30s and tell them that their spouse may very well not survive this hospitalization.”

Bolding said that he and his colleagues will continue to work through the challenges they face as a result of the pandemic, but they are tired.

“I can not explain in words the fatigue that your local healthcare providers have right now. We will be here and we’ll continue to until this pandemic is over, but we really need your help to help us,” he said.

Bolding pleaded with Arkansans to get vaccinated, and described the regret he is seeing in the patients he is caring for that haven’t made time to get their shot.

“What I really wish you could see is to look into the eyes of a young father or a gentlemen who knows that they may be short for this world because they didn’t get their vaccine, and the regret and remorse on their face. And fear,” he said. “I can’t show you. I can’t describe. It certainly will be with me forever…That look on a patients face, I promise you, would be more motivating than anything, to go ahead and get your vaccine if you have not already.”

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been steadily rising in the state for the last several weeks. There are currently 9,079 cases of COVID-19 considered active in the state, which includes those that have tested positive by both PCR and antigen testing methods. This number is up more than 5.5 times the amount reported June 7, when active cases dropped below 1,600 briefly.

Hospitalizations have also risen sharply in recent weeks. On Thursday, there were 669 Arkansans in COVID-19 units in Arkansas hospitals, the highest number recorded since mid-February. Hospitalizations were down below 200 at 175 on June 7.

Arkansas continues to lag behind the rest of the country in vaccinations. According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, Arkansas is ranked 48th with just 35% of the population being reported as fully vaccinated.

Arkansas is averaging 990 cases per day, or 33 per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. The state is currently ranked worst among states in the per 100,000 category over that time, according to the Times.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson this week said that 98.3% of Arkansans hospitalized with the virus since January are unvaccinated.