Hot Springs and Garland County continue to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, but members of the area COVID-19 task force caution that vigilance is needed to continue to keep down the spread of the virus.
“Our community cannot let our guard down. We have to keep pushing forward because the rest of Arkansas is not doing as well as we are,” said Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby at the Oct. 12 virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force. “We are in a good place in Garland County, but we need to keep doing what we are doing.”
Shelby also shared updated COVID-19 statistics for Garland County. For the week of Oct. 4 – 11, there were 72 new cases reported with an average of 10.3 new cases per day, down from the two previous weeks’ averages of 23 and 17.4. The total test count was 2,682, which included routine weekly testing taking place in long-term care facilities. The positivity rate for the week was 2.7%, and Shelby said the county has been on a steady decline in this category for the past six weeks. Active cases at the time of the meeting were down to 112 from the same time the previous week, when it was at 173.
The distribution in the county showed that the Garland County portion of Hot Springs Village dropped to two cases, and Royal went from 12 cases down to five.
Cases among those with Spanish surnames is at eight, which is up from last week but is at 5.1% of the county’s total case count, down from a high of 16%. The 65-and-older age group rose to 25.3%. The 0-17 group is down to 12.7% of the county’s total, which is lower than the two previous weeks’ percentages of 22% and 15.5%. There were three additional COVID-19 deaths in the county during the past week.
Shelby asked the task force to encourage the public to get a flu shot this year. He said that the symptoms for the flu are the same as those associated with COVID-19. Those who test positive for the flu may also undergo a test for COVID-19 because patients can have both infections simultaneously.
“The flu vaccine is available, it’s safe, it’s been around for a long time and it’s really helpful,” said Shelby.
The Garland County Health Unit is offering free walk-up flu shots and continue to offer free drive-up COVID-19 testing. The unit collected 108 COVID-19 test samples last week. There is still an ample supply of antigen tests for students, teachers and school staff who are exhibiting symptoms. To decrease possible wait times, it is recommended to call ahead to schedule a time for testing at 501-624-3394. The Garland County Health Unit is located at 1425 Malvern Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday – Friday. Tuesday hours are 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Representatives with CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center reported flat COVID-19 patient counts, but said that recent coronavirus patients are experiencing severe symptoms.
The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center at 501-760-4307 continues to direct callers to testing locations.
School district representatives shared low case and quarantine numbers. Fountain Lake held their homecoming without the football game this past weekend because the visiting team had to cancel due to COVID. Other districts with homecoming this week are hopeful that the low case counts continue so they can have with their festivities as planned.
The Sheriff’s Office shared that their call volumes continue to increase, particularly with mental health related calls, which were already high over the past few months before spiking in recent weeks.
County Judge Darryl Mahoney said that all safety precautions are in place, including social distancing and sanitation plans, for early voting to begin on Oct. 19.
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) continues to give out food boxes and provide individual assistance to those in need. Sarah Fowler, UWO executive director, said she is meeting frequently with Michelle Sestili, CDBG consultant with the City of Hot Springs, and others to discuss available services and identify any possible gaps that can be addressed to ensure needs are being met. 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.