The number of active COVID-19 cases in Garland County has risen to its highest number since the start of the pandemic at 247, according to Garland County Health Office Dr. Gene Shelby at the Oct. 26 virtual meeting of the Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Task Force.
“I want to reiterate that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and it’s not getting better. We need to double down with what we are doing – face masks, social distancing, staying away from crowds – and if you’re in an situation where people are not wearing masks, say something or leave,” said Shelby. “It’s on the community to take care of the community. We are in the midst of a battle right now.”
One action the task force is asking of all area citizens is to answer incoming phone calls, even if from an unknown or out-of-state phone number. Shelby referenced a recent story by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the state’s contact tracing efforts and the challenge of individuals not answering their phones when attempts are made by the contact tracing professionals.
Shelby also shared updated COVID-19 statistics for Garland County. For the week of Oct. 18 – 25, there were 195 new cases reported with an average of 27.9 new cases per day, up from the previous weeks’ 145 new cases and 20.7 daily average. The total test count was 2,422, up from 2,176, and again included routine weekly testing taking place in long-term care facilities. The positivity rate for the week was up from 6.7% to 8.1%. The new active case count at the time of the meeting was 83 higher than at the same time the previous week.
Contributing to the increases in new and active cases are three area nursing homes that have multiple cases within their facilities. Shelby said these nursing home outbreaks also appear to be adding to the number of healthcare workers who are currently infected. Of the active and probable cases in the database for Garland County, 47 are currently healthcare workers.
The distribution in the county showed that the Garland County portion of Hot Springs Village increased by one to eight cases; Pearcy is at seven cases; and Mountain Pine currently has six cases.
The 65-and-older age group is currently up from 65 to 99 cases, or 42.9% of the county’s total. Cases among those with Spanish surnames has remained steady with nine current cases, or 3% of the county’s total case count. The 0-17 group went down again this week to 8.2% of the county’s total.
School district representatives affirmed the lowering case counts among youth with low active and quarantine numbers among their student populations, as well as teachers/staff.
Despite record high statewide numbers for COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs report their coronavirus patient counts have remained consistent over the past few weeks.
The Hot Springs/Garland County COVID-19 Call Center at 501-760-4307 continues to get callers asking about rapid response antigen test availability.
The Garland County Health Unit continues to have antigen test supplies, but they are reserved for students, teachers and school staff who are exhibiting symptoms. The clinic collected 86 COVID-19 specimen last week, and they administered 915 flu vaccinations to students at the Mountain Pine and Lake Hamilton school districts. Poll workers will be given priority PCR testing, as needed. 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. It is recommended to call ahead to schedule COVID-19 testing at 501-624-3394.
The United Way of the Ouachitas (UWO) 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.