Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby says the most significant change over the last week is the increase in testing.
“We’re still on a plateau. We have some areas that we are seeing a little increase and other areas we are seeing go down.” We are seeing the average number of cases increase from 17.4 cases per day in the last week to 23 cases per day this past week, but at the same time, the positivity rate has continued to decrease from 9.5% to 3.9% over the past five weeks.
Shelby shared updated statistics for Garland County at the Oct. 5 virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force. For the week of Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, were 161 new cases reported, compared to 122 from each of the previous two weeks. The total test count was at 4,114, which included routine bi-weekly testing taking place in long-term care facilities. The current test counts included more than one thousand results than the previous weeks’ testing. The increased testing can be due to more rapid antigen testing being available and more testing taking place in nursing homes. Because of the increased staff testing at nursing homes, results were able to identify asymptomatic carriers among healthcare workers. Active cases at the time of the meeting were down to 173 from the same time the previous week, when it was at 192.
There was one additional death reported in Garland County as a result of COVID-19, bringing the county’s cumulative death total from the pandemic to 53.
The distribution in the county showed that the Garland County portion of Hot Springs Village went from three to four cases; Mountain Pine went from five to three cases; Royal had no changes and is at 12 cases; and Pearcy also had no changes and is at six cases.
Cases among those with Spanish surnames decreased to 2% of the county’s total, which is down from last week’s 9.3%. The 65-and-older age group rose from 20% to 24% and the 6-17 age group went from 43 to 28 cases; and the 0-17 group now accounts for 15.5% of the county’s total.
The Garland County Health Unit, 1425 Malvern Avenue, conducted a total of 97 PCR and antigen tests last week. They are also now doing free walk-up flu shots, and last week they administered 24 flu vaccinations. They are still providing free drive-up COVID-19 testing from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday and Wednesday – Friday. Tuesday hours are 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
In addition to the testing available at the health unit, they are preparing to provide flu vaccination clinics on local school campuses for staff and students.
The schedule is as followed;
- Lakeside School District (10/7-9)
- Jessieville and Fountain Lake school districts (during the week of 10/12)
- Mountain Pine School District (during the week of 10/19)
- Lake Hamilton School District (10/21-23)
- Hot Springs School District (10/28-30)
- Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts (11/3)
- Cutter Morning Star School District (11/4)
The school administrations continue to contact trace and quarantine, as needed. They shared optimistic reports with few positive cases.
Representatives from National Park Medical Center and CHI St. Vincent both shared that there has not been in any changes, they still have cases but not any higher than they have been in the past. National Park has had an increase in patient numbers however, they are not COVID-19 related.
Steve Arrison of Visit Hot Springs said that on Monday, Oct. 19 through Friday, Oct. 30, the Hot Springs Convention Center, 134 Convention Blvd., will be an early voting location (Hall B) and also a voting location on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. Arrison stated, “by being able to vote in one of our exhibit halls this will give people plenty of room for social distancing.”
The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center at 501-760-4307 has continued to receive callers asking about free and rapid testing locations. The Garland County Health Department does provide testing with no cost at the time of testing, but they do ask for insurance information, if applicable. They encourage individuals to call 501-624-3394 to make an appointment.
The United Way of the Ouachitas continues to give out food boxes and provide individual assistance to those in need. The application for COVID-19 assistance is online at https://www.unitedwayouachitas.org/covid-19-application. To donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, visit www.bit.ly/UWO-COVID, call 501-623-2505 or send a check by mail at 233 Hobson Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913.