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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The same week NWA ranked as the fourth best place to live in the U.S., the Natural State made national headlines for a surge in COVID-19 cases.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson took a road trip to combat vaccine hesitancy by meeting with Arkansans face-to-face.

Reality check: The surge is real and NWA is right on the edge of a national hot spot to the north, according to the New York Times' tracker.

By the numbers: Hospitals in NWA had a total of 60 COVID-19 patients as of Friday.

  • Officials say we're doubling the number of hospitalizations every 20 days.

Zoom out: The state had a total of 9,750 active cases Sunday afternoon and the highest case rate in the U.S. at 34 per 100,000 residents.

What they're saying: "What I'm concerned about now is we'll have a rise or surge, then winter is going to add another surge, so we're going to have a surge on top of a surge," José R. Romero, Arkansas' secretary of health, told The New York Times.

The bottom line hasn't changed: Most of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated. Just 40% of the state's population 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Of note: The mayor of Springfield, Missouri, where cases are also surging, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation," saying that misinformation about the vaccine and the city's function as a transportation hub have contributed to the uptick there.

Go deeper

Arkansas GOP governor embarks on state-wide tour to encourage vaccinations

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 22. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas is traveling around the state and meeting face-to-face with residents in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy as COVID-19 cases rise and vaccinations remain low, AP reports.

Why it matters: Hutchinson's statewide vaccination tour — which has drawn skepticism and in some cases, hostility from residents — distinguishes the governor from other Republican elected leaders, who often portray health leaders as adversaries even as they try to bring down cases, per AP.

Jul 18, 2021 - Health

Poll: Unvaccinated Americans least concerned about Delta variant

Nurse administers a COVID-19 dose in Los Angeles. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Americans who are not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all are much less concerned about the Delta variant than fully vaccinated Americans are, a new CBS poll indicates.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases are once again rising across the U.S. as health officials become increasingly concerned about the Delta variant, which is significantly more infectious than the original strain and poses an acute threat to the unvaccinated.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.